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EX-32.2 - EXHIBIT 32.2 - Wingstop Inc.exh322sox_cfoxcertxq42017.htm
EX-32.1 - EXHIBIT 32.1 - Wingstop Inc.exh321sox_ceoxcertxq42017.htm
EX-31.2 - EXHIBIT 31.2 - Wingstop Inc.exh312cfocert_q42017.htm
EX-31.1 - EXHIBIT 31.1 - Wingstop Inc.exh311ceocert_q42017.htm
EX-23.2 - EXHIBIT 23.2 - Wingstop Inc.exh232consentofernstandyou.htm
EX-21.1 - EXHIBIT 21.1 - Wingstop Inc.exh211listofsubsidiariesof.htm
EX-10.10 - EXHIBIT 10.10 - Wingstop Inc.exh1010cooemploymentagreem.htm
EX-3.2 - EXHIBIT 3.2 - Wingstop Inc.exh32bylawsofwingstopinc.htm
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
(Mark one)
x
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 30, 2017

or
¨
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from _____ to _____                   
Commission File No. 001-37425
WINGSTOP INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

Delaware
 
47-3494862
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
(IRS Employer Identification No.)
5501 LBJ Freeway, 5th Floor,
Dallas, Texas
 
75240

(Address of principal executive offices)
 
(Zip Code)

(972) 686-6500
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
 
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share
 
NASDAQ Global Market
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. x Yes   ¨ No

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. ¨ Yes   x No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. x Yes   ¨ No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). x Yes   ¨ No

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form10-K. x




Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company”, and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
x
 
Accelerated filer
 ¨

Non-accelerated filer
¨
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)

Smaller reporting company
 ¨

Emerging growth company
 ¨


If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). ¨ Yes   x No

As of June 30, 2017, the aggregate market value of the registrant’s outstanding common equity held by non-affiliates was $892.8 million, based on the closing price of the registrant’s common stock on such date, the last trading day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter.

As of February 23, 2018, there were 29,112,040 shares of common stock, par value of $0.01 per share, outstanding.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the proxy statement for the 2018 annual meeting of shareholders, which will be filed no later than 120 days after the close of the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 30, 2017, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.




TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I
PART II
PART III
PART IV

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PART I

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This report includes statements of our expectations, intentions, plans and beliefs that constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and are intended to come within the safe harbor protection provided by those sections. These statements, which involve risks and uncertainties, relate to the discussion of our business strategies and our expectations concerning future operations, margins, profitability, trends, liquidity and capital resources and to analyses and other information that are based on forecasts of future results and estimates of amounts not yet determinable. These forward-looking statements can generally by identified by the use of forward-looking terminology, including the terms “may,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “think,” “estimate,” “seek,” “expect,” “predict,” “could,” “project,” “potential” or, in each case, their negative or other variations or comparable terminology, although not all forward-looking statements are accompanied by such terms. Examples of forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, but are not limited to, our expectations with respect to our future liquidity, expenses and consumer appeal. These forward-looking statements are made based on expectations and beliefs concerning future events affecting us and are subject to uncertainties, risks and factors relating to our operations and business environments, all of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond our control, that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those matters expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Such risks and other factors include those listed in Item 1A., “Risk Factors,” and elsewhere in this report.
When considering forward-looking statements in this report or that we make in other reports or statements, you should keep in mind the cautionary statements in this report and future reports we file with the SEC. New risks and uncertainties arise from time to time, and we cannot predict when they may arise or how they may affect us. Except as required by law, we assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements for any reason, or to update the reasons actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, even if new information becomes available in the future.
Item 1. Business
Overview

The Wing Experts
Wingstop is a high-growth franchisor and operator of restaurants that specialize in cooked-to-order, hand-sauced and tossed chicken wings. We believe we pioneered the concept of wings as a “center-of-the-plate” item for all of our meal occasions. We offer our guests 11 bold, distinctive and craveable flavors on our bone-in and boneless chicken wings and tenders paired with hand-cut, seasoned fries and sides made fresh daily. Our menu is highly customizable for different dining occasions, and we believe it delivers a compelling value proposition for groups, families, and individuals.
Wings are our “center-of-the-plate” specialty. While other concepts include wings as add-on menu items or focus on wings in a bar or sports-centric setting, we are focused on wings, fries and sides, which generate approximately 92% of our sales. We are the largest fast casual chicken wings-focused restaurant chain in the world, and have demonstrated strong, consistent growth on a global scale. The Company is primarily a franchisor, with approximately 98% of Wingstop’s restaurants currently owned and operated by independent franchisees.
    
We believe our simple and efficient restaurant operating model, low initial cash investment and compelling restaurant economics help drive continued system growth through both existing and new franchisees. Our focused restaurant operating model requires few ingredients and easy preparation within a small, flexible real estate footprint. During fiscal year 2017, carry-out orders constituted approximately 75% of our sales. We believe our efficient model offers an attractive investment opportunity for our franchisees as evidenced by our domestic average sales-to-investment ratio of 3 to 1 and is further evidenced by the fact that we have more than doubled our global restaurant count since the end of 2011. We believe our asset-light, highly-franchised business model generates strong operating margins and requires low capital expenditures, creating stockholder value through strong and consistent free cash flow and capital-efficient growth.
Our Industry
We operate in the rapidly growing, fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. According to Technomic, the fast casual segment generated approximately $52 billion of sales in 2017, representing a 10% increase from 2016. Technomic projects the fast casual

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segment will exceed $76 billion in annual sales by 2022. According to Technomic, 2017 total sales for restaurants categorized as limited service restaurants, or LSRs, which includes the fast casual segment, increased 4.4% to $280 billion. We believe that fast casual concepts, such as Wingstop, attract customers away from other restaurant segments and, accordingly, are generating faster growth than the overall restaurant industry and increasing market share relative to other segments.
Segments
Our business is structured into two reporting segments based on the organizational units used by our management to monitor performance and make operating decisions. Our reporting segments are franchise operations and company restaurant operations. Financial data for our reporting segments is included in the audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto included elsewhere in this report.
Our Strengths

Our Menu
Wingstop is the destination when our guests crave fresh, cooked-to-order wings with bold, layered flavors that touch all of the senses. People who prioritize flavor prioritize Wingstop because it is more than a meal, it is a flavor experience. We speak in bold, distinctive and craveable flavors. Our dialect is our 11 proprietary flavors, which range from extremely hot to mild: Atomic, Mango Habanero, Cajun, Original Hot, Louisiana Rub, Mild, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Lemon Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, Hawaiian and Teriyaki.
Our diverse flavor offerings allow our guests to customize their experience. All of our wings are cooked-to-order, hand-sauced and tossed and served fresh to our guests for dine-in or carry-out. We never use heat lamps or microwaves in the preparation of our food. To complement our wings, we serve hand-cut, seasoned fries, crafted from carefully selected whole Russet potatoes. We complete the flavor experience with fresh, hand-cut carrots and celery and ranch and bleu cheese dips made with buttermilk in-house daily. We believe our bold and distinctive flavors leave our guests craving more and create a differentiated and tailor-made flavor experience that drives repeat business and brand loyalty.
Our customizable menu and craveable flavors drive demand across multiple day-parts and occasions. Our 11 flavors, signature fries, freshly-prepared sides and numerous order options (eat-in / to go; individual / combo meals / family packs) allow guests to eat Wingstop during any occasion, whether it is a quick carry-out snack, dine-in dinner with friends or picking up a party size order for their favorite sporting event.

Compelling Unit Economics
We believe the growing popularity of the Wingstop experience and the operational simplicity of our restaurants translate into attractive economics at our franchised and company-owned locations. Existing franchisees accounted for approximately 80% of franchised restaurants opened in 2017 and 2016, which we believe further underscores our restaurant model’s financial appeal.
Upon opening, our restaurant volume generally builds year after year. Our domestic average unit volume (“AUV”) has grown consistently, achieving $1.1 million during fiscal year 2017. Our restaurants are approximately 1,700 square feet on average and yield average sales per square foot of $647 based on 2017 domestic AUV due to the high average carry-out mix of approximately 75% in 2017. Our operational simplicity results in low labor costs, further improving the profitability of our concept. Our operating model targets a low average estimated initial investment of approximately $370,000, excluding real estate purchase or lease costs and pre-opening expenses. In year two of operation, we target a franchisee unlevered cash-on-cash return of approximately 35% to 40%. We believe low entry costs and high returns provide a compelling investment opportunity for our franchisees that has helped drive the continued growth of our system.

Proven Portability
Our concept has demonstrated success across the globe, with restaurants operating in 42 states across varying geographic regions, population densities and real estate settings within the United States and in 8 international markets. We have had positive same store sales growth across a wide variety of major markets over the last five years, and on average have only closed seven restaurants per year. Global demand for chicken, broad appeal and the simplicity of our restaurant operating model have supported our success across eight international markets. While our concept has succeeded in a variety of real estate formats and locations, our preferred real estate site is an in-line or end-cap retail strip center location available in most shopping centers. The flexibility of our real estate model coupled with the broad appeal of our food has enabled us to profitably locate restaurants in both urban and suburban areas. Accordingly, we believe our concept is well-positioned for continued system growth in both existing and new markets.

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Strength In Numbers
We have demonstrated a consistent track record of strong financial performance:
Domestic same store sales increased 9.9% in 2013, 12.5% in 2014, 7.9% in 2015, 3.2% in 2016 and 2.6% in 2017, representing five year cumulative domestic same store sales growth of 36.1%, driven primarily by an increase in transactions, which demonstrates the growing awareness and popularity of our brand;
Our domestic same store sales growth is even more meaningful given that we have had 14 consecutive years of positive same store sales;
From 2013 to 2017, our system-wide sales increased from $550 million to $1.1 billion, which represents growth of 98% over the period;
Total revenue increased from $59.0 million in 2013, to $67.4 million in 2014, to $78.0 million in 2015, to $91.4 million in 2016, to $105.6 million in 2017; and
Since 2013 our net income has grown from $7.5 million to $27.3 million in 2017; and Adjusted EBITDA, increased from $19.5 million in 2013, to $41.5 million in 2017.
For a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA to net income and a further discussion of how we utilize this non-GAAP financial measure, see “Selected Historical Consolidated Financial and Other Data.”
Experienced Management Team
Our strategic vision and results-driven culture are directed by our executive management team under the leadership of our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Charlie Morrison. Charlie joined Wingstop in 2012, bringing more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant and multi-unit retail industry, including leadership positions at Pizza Hut, Boston Market, Kinko’s, Steak & Ale and, most recently, Rave Restaurant Group, a publicly traded restaurant company, where he served as Chief Executive Officer and led the creation of the award winning Pie Five restaurant concept. Charlie is supported by a strong executive team with significant retail and restaurant experience. Our Chief Financial Officer, Michael Skipworth, came to us from KPMG LLP and, most recently Cardinal Logistics, where he was the Senior Vice President of Finance and Accounting. Our Chief Experience Officer, Stacy Peterson, brings 15 years of information technology experience and came to us from multi-unit retailers, including Blockbuster and Kinko’s. Heading up our marketing efforts is Flynn Dekker, who has over 20 years of experience and was previously the Chief Marketing Officer of Fogo de Chao and Rave Restaurant Group. Madison Jobe, our Chief Development Officer, joined us from Development Strategies International, a restaurant advisory firm where he was Founder and Chief Executive Officer, and brings 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry to oversee our franchise development efforts. Larry Kruguer, Chief Operating Officer, joined us in June 2015 from Wendy’s International, where he served as Vice President, International Joint Ventures. Darryl Marsch, our General Counsel, has over 25 years of legal experience and previously served as the General Counsel of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. during its turnaround and growth phase. We believe our management team is a key driver of our success and positions us well for long-term growth.
Our Growth Strategy
Franchise Expansion
We believe that there is significant opportunity to expand globally, and we intend to focus our efforts on increasing our geographic penetration in both existing and new domestic markets as well as international markets. We believe our highly-franchised model positions us for continued strong unit growth over the medium and long-term. We expect high franchisee demand for our brand, supported by compelling unit economics, operational simplicity, low entry costs and flexible real estate profile, to drive global restaurant growth. Based on our internal analysis, we believe there is opportunity for our brand to grow to approximately 2,500 restaurants across the United States. Further, we believe there is a long term opportunity to expand our brand internationally to become a top 10 global restaurant company.
We intend to achieve our domestic restaurant potential by expanding in our existing markets where we believe we have the opportunity to more than double our current restaurant count. In addition, we will continue to expand into new markets. Our “inside out” domestic market expansion strategy focuses our initial development in urban centers where our core demographic is most densely populated and then builds outward into suburban areas as our brand awareness grows in the market. We have a robust domestic development pipeline, including 450 total commitments to open new franchised restaurants as of December 30, 2017. Approximately 80% of our current domestic commitments are from existing franchisees, supporting the attractiveness of our restaurant business model as well as our positive franchisor/franchisee relationships. We believe that our highly-franchised business model provides a platform for continued growth as it allows us to focus on our core strengths of flavor innovation, marketing and

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guest engagement, and franchisee selection and support, while growing our restaurant presence and brand recognition with limited capital investment by us.

We also believe that there is a significant opportunity to grow our business internationally. We opened our first international location in Mexico in 2009. As of December 30, 2017, we had 106 international restaurants located in Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, all of which are franchised. In 2017, we opened 32 international locations. We currently have 584 international restaurant commitments sold as of December 30, 2017. During 2017, we entered into international expansion agreements to open 30 locally operated franchise locations in Malaysia over the next 6 years, 100 locations in the United Kingdom over the next 12 years, 110 locations in Australia and New Zealand over the next 10 years, and 75 locations in France over the next 12 years. We believe that our restaurant operating model will translate well internationally based on our small real estate footprint, our simplicity of operations, the universal and broad appeal of chicken, and our ability to customize our wide variety of flavors to local tastes.
Long-term Domestic Same Store Sales Growth
National Advertising
In February 2017, we launched our national advertising program. This transition to national advertising from our advertising cooperatives, a more locally driven advertising approach, provided us with more reach and frequency in existing media markets in addition to coverage for smaller and newer markets where we did not previously utilize television advertising. In 2016, approximately half of our domestic restaurants experienced some benefit of TV advertising across 10 markets. In 2017, we covered 100% of our domestic system with TV advertising, reaching over 80% of adults ages 18 to 49. We also utilize an extensive range of social media and digital marketing tools including search engine, programmatic, native, digital video and social media advertising. At a national level, we advertise on Google, Yahoo and Bing through search engine advertising and also through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat via paid social advertising.
Digital Expansion
We are making focused investments in technology to provide the most convenient, engaging, and cutting edge brand experience for our fans and drive increased sales. In 2014, we launched an updated online ordering system and mobile ordering application, or app, that simplifies the ordering process and integrates into our point-of-sale (“POS”) system, uniting online and register ordering across our system. We were one of the first to launch bot technology and customizable ordering on Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Amazon Alexa. We believe that we are poised for continued digital growth. Digital sales totaled 23% of sales during the fourth quarter of 2017, compared to the fast casual industry average of 6%. Digital sales in the fourth quarter of 2017 have more than doubled from the launch of our digital tools in the fourth quarter of 2014. Additionally, average transaction size for online orders is approximately $5 higher than the average for all other orders.
Delivery
In 2017, we initiated a delivery test in three markets utilizing a third party delivery service provider. Our initial test market was Las Vegas where we have ten restaurants, five company-owned and five franchised, and we experienced approximately a 10% lift in sales from offering delivery. The results of our initial tests have also suggested that the majority of this sales lift was incremental sales, or sales from new Wingstop customers. Similar to our digital expansion, the average transaction size for delivery orders that is approximately $5 higher than the average for all other orders. We anticipate that our rollout of delivery to additional markets will occur throughout 2018 and 2019 market-by-market as delivery coverage from our third party delivery service provider improves. Further, we believe adding delivery will continue to drive domestic same store sales growth.
Our Franchise
Franchise Overview
Our franchisees operated a total of 1,110 restaurants in 42 states, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia as of December 30, 2017. We have rigorous qualification criteria and training programs for our franchisees and require them to adhere to strict operating standards. We work hard to ensure that every Wingstop franchise location meets the same quality and customer service benchmarks in order to preserve the consistency and reliability of the Wingstop brand.
We have a broad and diversified domestic franchisee base. Since 2014, the number of franchisees who own more than ten restaurants has doubled. This increase is consistent with our strategy to grow with our existing franchisees. Our domestic franchise base has an average restaurant ownership of approximately 3 restaurants per franchisee.
Franchise Agreements. Our franchisees execute a separate franchise agreement for each restaurant opened, typically providing for a 10-year initial term, with an opportunity to enter into one or more renewal franchise agreements subject to certain conditions.

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Our standard franchise agreement changes from time to time, and terms may vary among franchisees. We generally update and/or revise our franchise agreement on an annual basis and, as a result, the agreements we enter into with individual franchisees may vary. Through 2017, our franchise documents provided that franchisees must pay a franchise fee of $20,000 for the first restaurant opened under a development agreement and $12,500 for each additional restaurant opened. If a franchisee has entered into an area development agreement with us (which occurs, in most cases, even if a franchisee wants to develop only one restaurant), the aggregate initial fee currently is $30,000 for the first restaurant and $22,500 for each subsequent restaurant under such development agreement, in each case including a $10,000 development fee per restaurant. The $10,000 development fee per restaurant to-be-developed is paid in full at the time a development agreement is signed for the grant of development rights and is not refundable.
Effective March 1, 2017, we eliminated the franchise fee discount for all new development agreements. This change will require franchisees to pay a franchise fee of $20,000 for each restaurant opened. The majority of our existing franchise agreements require our franchisees to pay us a royalty of 5% of their gross sales net of discounts. New franchise agreements signed pursuant to development agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2014 require our franchisees to pay us a royalty of 6% of their gross sales net of discounts. Our franchise agreements allow us to assess franchisees an advertising fund contribution based on their gross sales net of discounts. In 2017, we charged a national advertising fund contribution equal to 3% of gross sales under all existing franchise agreements. In addition, franchisees may vote to increase their required advertising fund contribution. Our current form of franchise agreement also requires franchisees to spend at least 1% of their gross sales on local advertising and promotions. Franchisees operating under pre-2014 forms of franchise agreement were not contractually required to spend any minimum amount on local advertising, although we recommended that they spend at least 4% of their restaurants’ gross sales on advertising and marketing.
The boundaries of the area in which a franchisee may locate its restaurant, which we refer to as the development area, depend on the population and other demographic features of the market in which the franchisee wants to locate its restaurant(s). The development area may range from a sector of a large metropolitan area to the city or county limits of a smaller municipality. Based on the franchisee’s proposal and our analysis, we identify and describe in the development agreement the boundaries of an appropriately-sized development area and, if we expect the franchisee to operate more than one restaurant, the number of restaurants that must be developed in the development area. The development agreement does not permit us to change the development area after it is established. Whether a development agreement covers one or several restaurants, it contains a schedule of the dates by which the franchisee must sign leases and open each restaurant, and failure by the franchisee to adhere to the development agreement’s schedule is an event of default under the development agreement.
All of our franchise agreements require that each franchised restaurant be operated in accordance with our defined operating procedures, adhere to the menu we establish and meet applicable quality, service, health and cleanliness standards. We may terminate the franchise rights of any franchisee who does not comply with our standards and requirements. We believe that maintaining superior food quality, an inviting and energetic atmosphere and excellent guest service are critical to the reputation and success of our concept. Therefore, we aggressively enforce the contractual requirements of our franchise agreements.
How We Support our Franchisees
Site Selection and Development. Franchisees operating in the United States must use our approved real estate broker in their markets during the site search, review, and leasing process. We also have lists of approved site surveyors, permit expeditors and architectural and engineering consultants for restaurant development and build-out. We give franchisees general guidelines to follow and consider in choosing a site for any new restaurant. We do not own any real estate in the United States on which franchised restaurants are located and do not lease restaurant sites to franchisees.
We provide franchisees information about a typical restaurant’s lay-out, utility requirements and signs and, in the United States, a lease rider containing provisions we require to be attached to every restaurant lease. Once a domestic franchisee has selected one or more proposed sites, we will evaluate and critique the written site proposals required to be submitted for our consideration and may, at our option, visit the development area to inspect the sites proposed. Franchisees may not proceed with negotiations to lease a site before we approve that site.
We currently are not significantly involved in our international franchisees’ site selection process. We review but do not pre-approve the sites they select for their franchised restaurants. However, we give our international franchisees general guidelines to follow and request them to complete a site analysis for our oversight as they finalize the site selections for their restaurants. We do not own any real estate internationally on which franchised restaurants are located and do not lease restaurant sites to franchisees.
Training, Pre-Opening Assistance and Ongoing Support. Franchisees (along with their managers) must attend and successfully complete a 4-week training program before we will issue an opening date for a restaurant. Our training program covers various topics, including Wingstop culture, food preparation and storage, food safety, specific position training, uniforms, cleaning and sanitation, marketing and advertising, POS systems, accounting and hospitality, among others. Unless a franchisee commits to

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operate his or her own restaurant (i.e., “owner-operated”), the franchisee must hire a general manager who either has roots in the general area where the restaurant is located or is willing to move to the general area. Our international franchisees likewise must complete required training and are principally responsible for training their managers and other employees.
When a domestic franchisee opens his or her first Wingstop restaurant, we provide the owner with an opening restaurant trainer for up to six days and may elect to send an opening restaurant trainer to a franchisee’s second or later restaurant location for an amount of time we determine to be appropriate. We also provide lists of approved inventory, suppliers and small-wares that are needed to stock and operate each restaurant and help franchisees locate qualified suppliers of chicken and other supplies and ingredients that meet our specifications.
We also have an internal operations infrastructure that provides ongoing support to our franchisees. We utilize a field-based team of franchise business consultants who act as local resources to assist our franchisees to run their restaurants in accordance with Wingstop standards and who also assist with efforts to grow restaurant sales. The main responsibilities of our franchise business consultants include communicating and conveying certain initiatives and process enhancements to our franchisees and conducting business reviews in order to assist franchisees to operate more efficiently, with a focus on increasing restaurant sales and profits. Additionally, we maintain programs to monitor and evaluate the adherence of franchised restaurants to our quality, service and cleanliness standards. For example, we have a group of field alignment managers who conduct standardized quarterly reviews of each of our franchised restaurants’ operations to help ensure that our brand standards are maintained. We also employ a third-party customer survey program to monitor guest experience and quality standards at franchised restaurants.
In addition to our hands-on training and assistance, we provide an operations manual to each restaurant location that includes sections on topics such as business operations, food safety, crew, hospitality, quality products, guest services, packaging and presentation, restaurant cleaning, restaurant and equipment maintenance, POS systems, quality control, advertising and marketing and emergency management.
Franchise Advisory Council. In December 2002, we organized a Franchise Advisory Council, which we refer to as the Council, to consult with us about system-wide advertising themes and campaigns and other operational matters. The Council is composed of franchise members, all of whom are elected by our franchisees, and meets quarterly to review marketing strategies and provide input on topics such as advertising messages, operational standards and system-wide initiatives. While the Council functions only in an advisory capacity, and we may disregard its recommendations if we choose, we view the Council as an important component of our domestic franchisee support program.
 
Point-of-Sale System. We require that our domestic franchisees utilize a uniform POS system. As of the end of 2016, we have substantially completed upgrading to a more robust POS system from prior legacy systems. Our POS system, in conjunction with our Intranet system, allows us to track sales at each restaurant location. Our restaurant operations require no other computers for a restaurant location. Our POS system integrates with our online ordering app, allowing for seamless recording and tracking of sales. Furthermore, our POS system provides our franchisees with additional back office tools that we believe will assist in cost control, create operational efficiencies and drive sales.
Supply Chain Assistance. We assist our franchisees by negotiating regional and national contracts for chicken and other commodities and other items needed to develop and operate a Wingstop restaurant. We designate and approve suppliers in order to ensure that all ingredients and supplies utilized in our restaurants satisfy our grade and quality standards. As we negotiate regional and national contracts, we seek to promote the overall interests of our franchise system and our interests as the franchisor. We approve suppliers based on their ability to meet our specifications and quality control requirements and to supply products to our franchisees at competitive prices.
Research and Development. We lead product innovation and testing efforts for our franchisees, including new wing sauce flavors, side items, new chicken wing, chicken strip or other menu additions, and new beverage options. New product research and development is located in our headquarters facility in Dallas, Texas. We rely on our internal culinary team and, from time to time, third party experts, leveraging consumer research to develop and test new products for our franchised and company-owned restaurants.
Marketing and Advertising Support
We utilize three levels of advertising: (1) system-wide advertising, which is coordinated through our ad fund; (2) local advertising, which franchisees handle with materials we create or approve; and (3) cooperative advertising among multiple franchisees in a given market.
Ad Fund. We created a not-for-profit advertising fund in July 1999, which we refer to as the ad fund. All restaurants, including our company-owned restaurants, must contribute to the ad fund. Our franchise agreements allow us to assess an ad fund contribution

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from domestic franchisees based on their gross sales net of discounts. Beginning in fiscal year 2017, we charged 3% of gross sales under all existing domestic franchise agreements.
We direct and retain sole control over all advertising and promotions that the ad fund finances. We use a national advertising agency to create our advertising and promotional materials. We use another agency to create localized versions of our advertising and promotional materials.
Digital Advertising. We currently utilize an extensive range of social media and digital marketing tools including, search engine, programmatic, native, digital video and social media advertising. We also maintain website hosting and manage the development and maintenance of the mobile Wingstop app. We market Wingstop products, services and restaurants through our website that we maintain at www.wingstop.com. Our website features a site locator page on the website showing the addresses, telephone numbers and ability to online order for each restaurant. At a national level, we advertise on Google, Yahoo and Bing through search engine advertising and also through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat via paid social advertising. Additionally, we assist franchisees in planning and executing localized geo-targeted digital marketing for their restaurants, including internet and mobile marketing.
 
Franchisees may not use electronic media, including the Internet or mobile, to advertise their restaurants without first obtaining our written consent and complying with any conditions and restrictions we wish to impose. We may assess franchisees a fee of up to $100 per month to pay for our website’s and Intranet’s maintenance and improvement costs.
Social Media. Wingstop has a strong brand presence on both emerging and well-established social media platforms for digital collaboration, including smartphone apps and native sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. We adhere to social media guidelines that embody our strategic vision and apply to both company-owned and franchised restaurants. These guidelines will continually evolve as new technologies and social networking tools emerge.
Local Advertising. We advertise our company-owned restaurants primarily through online and mobile advertising and paid search, and expect franchisees to follow the same pattern. Our current form of franchise agreement requires franchisees to spend at least 1% of their gross sales on local advertising and promotions, which is in addition to amounts contributed to the ad fund as described above. Franchisees operating under pre-2014 forms of franchise agreement are not contractually required to spend any minimum amount on local advertising, although we recommended that they spend at least 4% of their restaurants’ gross sales on local advertising and marketing.
Advertising Cooperatives. When a franchisee and at least one other restaurant operator have opened restaurants in the same designated market area (“DMA”), we may require the franchisee and the other operator(s) to form a cooperative advertising association. Each cooperative’s members will set their cooperative’s required contribution rate, but we retain the right to disapprove a rate lower than 1% of gross sales. Contributions to advertising cooperatives are credited toward a franchisee’s 1% local advertising obligation. Currently, the members of an advertising cooperative administer the cooperative, and we intervene only to resolve disputes. In that event, our decision is binding.
As of December 30, 2017, advertising cooperatives have been formed in the following DMAs: Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, California; Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, California; San Diego, California; San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Texas; Dallas / Ft. Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas.
National Advertising. In 2017, we transitioned to a national advertising program. Under this new program, franchisees contributed 3% of gross sales to the ad fund that is utilized to create advertising content and purchase digital and television advertising at a national level. This change is not an increase in the 4% of the restaurants’ gross sales that has historically been spent on advertising, but rather a reallocation of the 4%. Franchisees will spend the remaining 1% of gross sales on local advertising or cooperative advertising. This transition to national advertising from our advertising cooperatives, a more locally driven advertising approach, provided us with more reach and frequency in existing media markets in addition to coverage for smaller and newer markets where we did not previously leverage television.
Competition
The restaurant industry is intensely competitive. We compete on the basis of the taste, quality and price of food offered, guest service, ambiance, location and overall dining experience. We believe that our attractive price-value relationship, our flexible service model and the quality and distinctive flavor of our food enable us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
We believe we compete primarily with fast casual establishments and quick service restaurants such as other wing-based take-out concepts, local and regional sports bars and casual dining restaurants. Many fast casual and carry-out concepts offer wings as add-

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on items to other food categories such as pizza, but typically do not focus on wings. Other competitors emphasize wings in a bar or sports-centric setting. Many of these direct and indirect competitors are well-established national, regional or local chains. We also compete with many restaurant and retail establishments for site locations and restaurant-level employees.
Suppliers and Distribution
We insist that all ingredients and supplies utilized in Wingstop restaurants satisfy our grade and quality standards. Our franchisees are required to purchase all chicken, groceries, produce, beverages, equipment and signage, furniture, fixtures, logo-imprinted paper goods and cleaning supplies solely from suppliers that we designate and approve. We regularly inspect vendors to ensure that products purchased conform to our standards and that prices offered are competitive.
The principal raw materials for a Wingstop restaurant operation are bone-in and boneless chicken wings. Therefore, chicken is our largest product cost item and represented approximately 70% of all purchases for 2017. Company-owned and franchised restaurants purchase their bone-in and boneless chicken wings from suppliers that we designate and approve. We designate sources for potatoes to ensure that they are grown to our specifications. We also require franchisees to use our proprietary sauces, seasonings and spice blends and purchase them and other proprietary products only from designated sources.
All food items and packaging goods for our restaurants can be sourced through one vendor, The Sygma Network, Inc., which we refer to as Sygma. There are nine regional Sygma distribution centers which carry all products required for a Wingstop restaurant and service all of our domestic locations. Sygma is obligated under our agreement to deliver at least twice weekly to our restaurants. We contract directly with manufacturers to sell products to Sygma, who in turn receives a fee for delivering these items to our restaurants. The majority of our highest spend items are formula or fixed contract priced. We have also negotiated agreements with our soft drink suppliers to offer soft drink dispensing systems, along with associated branded products, in all Wingstop restaurants.
As the Wingstop system grows, we will continue to negotiate regional or national contracts for chicken and other commodities and other items needed to develop and operate all of our restaurants and may use a designated or approved supplier approach.
Management Information / Technology Systems
We have core management information systems in place and believe they are scalable to support our future growth plans. We specify a standard POS system in all of our company-owned restaurants and virtually all franchised restaurants that helps facilitate the operation of the restaurants by recording sales, cost of sales and labor and other operating metrics and allows managers to create various reports to assess performance. Our POS system is configured to record and store financial information in a manner that we specify, and we require franchisees to provide us with continual and unlimited independent access to all information on each POS system. We believe our current information systems are sufficient to support our planned expansion for the foreseeable future.
We have an online ordering system and mobile ordering app, which makes it easy for our guests to order-ahead, which we believe increases the frequency of our guests’ visits and leads to higher check averages.
We require that our franchisees’ electronic information systems, including POS systems, comply with and maintain established network security standards, including applicable Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards.
Intellectual Property and Trademarks
We own a number of trademarks and service marks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and with foreign trademark authorities.
We believe that our trademarks and other proprietary rights are important to our success and our competitive position, and, therefore, we devote resources to the protection of our trademarks and proprietary rights.
 Seasonality
Our restaurants have not experienced significant revenue fluctuations that can be attributed to seasonal factors.
Employees
As of December 30, 2017, we employed 530 persons, of whom 149 were full-time corporate-based and regional personnel. The remainder was part-time or restaurant-level employees. None of our employees is represented by a labor union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and we believe that we have good relations with our employees. Our franchise owners are independent business owners, so they and their employees are not included in our employee count.

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Government Regulation
Federal. We and our franchisees are subject to various federal regulations affecting the operation of our business. We and our franchisees are subject to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and various other federal and state laws governing matters such as minimum wage requirements, overtime, fringe benefits, workplace safety and other working conditions and citizenship requirements. A significant number of our and our franchisees’ food service personnel are paid at rates related to the applicable minimum wage, and past increases in the minimum wage have increased our and our franchisees’ labor costs, as would future increases. Our distributors and suppliers also may be affected by higher minimum wage and benefit standards, which could result in higher costs for goods and services supplied to us and our franchisees.
We and our franchisees are also required to comply with the accessibility standards mandated by the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and related federal and state statutes, which generally prohibit discrimination in accommodations or employment based on disability. We and our franchisees may in the future have to modify our restaurants to provide service to or make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons. While these expenses could be material, our current expectation is that any such actions will not require us to expend substantial funds.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), enacted in March 2010, requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations in the United States to comply with federal nutritional disclosure requirements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the final rules on menu and vending machine nutrition labeling, which amended section 403(q) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to establish requirements for the nutrition labeling of standard menu items at restaurants or similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations. Under the rule, calorie information must be provided clearly and conspicuously next to the listed standard menu item on a menu or menu board. In addition to calorie information, each menu or menu board must prominently include a succinct statement concerning suggested caloric intake. Upon request, covered establishments must provide information about the total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein in their standard menu items. The rule contains detailed requirements for providing calorie and nutrition information and determining nutrient content. The effect of such labeling requirements on consumer choices, if any, is unclear at this time, and it is also unclear whether these regulations will be implemented on May 7, 2018 as announced, or further postponed by the FDA as was the case in 2016 and 2017.
 
Furthermore, a number of states, counties and cities have previously enacted menu labeling laws requiring multi-unit restaurant operators to disclose certain nutritional information to customers, or have enacted legislation restricting the use of certain types of ingredients in restaurants. Although the federal legislation is intended to preempt conflicting state or local laws on nutritional labeling, until our system is required to comply with the federal law we and our franchisees will be subject to a patchwork of state and local laws and regulations regarding nutritional content disclosure requirements. Many of these requirements are inconsistent or are interpreted differently from one jurisdiction to another.
There is also a potential for increased regulation of food in the United States, such as recent changes in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system requirements. HACCP refers to a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of potential hazards from production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. Many states have adopted legislation or implemented regulations which require restaurants to develop and implement HACCP systems. Similarly, the United States Congress and the FDA continue to expand the sectors of the food industry that must adopt and implement HACCP programs. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in January 2011 and significantly expanded the FDA’s authority over food safety, granting the FDA authority to proactively ensure the safety of the entire food system, including through new and additional hazard analysis, food safety planning, increased inspections and permitting mandatory food recalls. Although restaurants are specifically exempted from some of these new requirements and not directly implicated by other requirements, we anticipate that some of the FSMA provisions and the FDA’s implementation of the new requirements may impact our industry. We cannot assure you that we will not have to expend additional time and resources to comply with new food safety requirements required by either the FSMA or future federal food safety regulation or legislation. Additionally, our suppliers may initiate or otherwise be subject to food recalls that may impact the availability of certain products, result in adverse publicity or require us to take actions that could be costly for us or otherwise harm our business.
We and our franchisees are also subject to anti-corruption laws, including the FCPA, and other anti-corruption laws that apply in countries where we do business. The FCPA, UK Bribery Act and these other laws generally prohibit us, our food service personnel, our franchisees, their food service personnel and intermediaries from bribing, being bribed or making other prohibited payments to government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain some other business advantage. We operate in a number of jurisdictions that pose a high risk of potential FCPA violations, and we participate in relationships with third parties whose actions could potentially subject us to liability under the FCPA or local anti-corruption laws. In addition, we cannot predict the nature, scope or effect of future regulatory requirements to which our international operations might be subject or the manner in which existing laws might be administered or interpreted.

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We and our franchisees are also subject to other laws and regulations governing our international operations, including regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, and various non-U.S. government entities, including applicable export control regulations, economic sanctions on countries and persons, customs requirements, currency exchange regulations and transfer pricing regulations.
One of the legal foundations fundamental to the franchise business model has been that, absent special circumstances, a franchisor is generally not responsible for the acts, omissions or liabilities of its franchisees. Recently, established law has been challenged by the plaintiffs’ bar. Although recent pronouncements from the National Labor Relations Board indicate that it will adhere to traditional tests for determining when a "joint-employer" relationship exists, if these challenges are successful in altering currently settled law, it could significantly change the way we and other franchisors conduct business and adversely impact our profitability. For example, a determination that we are a “joint employer” with our franchisees or that franchisees are part of one unified system with joint and several liability under the National Labor Relations Act, statutes administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, regulations and other areas of labor and employment law could subject us and/or our franchisees to liability for the unfair labor practices, wage-and-hour law violations, employment discrimination law violations, OSHA regulation violations and other employment-related liabilities of one or more franchisees. In September 2017, Australia enacted a law potentially making franchisors liable as a "joint employer" of their franchisees. The impact of this legislation has yet to be determined.
StateWe are subject to extensive and varied state and local government regulation affecting the operation of our business, as are our franchisees, including regulations relating to public and occupational health and safety, sanitation, fire prevention and franchise operation. Each franchised restaurant is subject to licensing and regulation by a number of governmental authorities, including with respect to zoning, health, safety, sanitation, nutritional information disclosure, environmental and building and fire safety, in the jurisdiction in which the franchised restaurant is located. Our and our franchisees’ licenses to sell alcoholic beverages must be renewed annually and may be suspended or revoked at any time for cause, including violation by us or our employees, or our franchisees or their employees, of any law or regulation pertaining to alcoholic beverage control, such as those regulating the minimum age of patrons or employees, advertising, wholesale purchasing and inventory control.
We require our franchisees to operate in accordance with standards and procedures designed to comply with applicable codes and regulations. However, our or our franchisees’ inability to obtain or retain health department or other licenses would adversely affect operations at the impacted restaurant or restaurants. Although we have not experienced, and do not anticipate, any significant difficulties, delays or failures in obtaining required licenses, permits or approvals, any such problem could delay or prevent the opening, or adversely impact the viability, of a particular restaurant.
We and our franchisees may be subject in certain states to “dram-shop” statutes, which generally provide a person injured by an intoxicated person the right to recover damages from an establishment that wrongfully served alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person.
In addition, in order to develop and construct our restaurants, we and our franchisees need to comply with applicable zoning and land use regulations. Federal and state regulations have not had a material effect on our operations to date, but more stringent and varied requirements of local governmental bodies with respect to zoning and land use could delay or even prevent construction and increase development costs of new restaurants.
In addition, we are subject to the rules and regulations of the Federal Trade Commission and various state laws regulating the offer and sale of franchises. The Federal Trade Commission and various state franchise laws require that we furnish a franchise disclosure document containing certain information to prospective franchisees in advance of any franchise sale or the receipt of any consideration for the franchise, and a number of states require registration of the franchise disclosure document at least annually with state authorities. We are operating under exemptions from registration (though not disclosure) in several states based on our qualifications for exemption as set forth in each such state’s laws. Substantive state laws that regulate the franchisor-franchisee relationship, including in the areas of termination and non-renewal, presently exist in a substantial number of states. We believe that our franchise disclosure document and franchising procedures comply in all material respects with both the Federal Trade Commission guidelines and all applicable state laws regulating franchising in those states in which we have offered franchises.
International. Our franchised restaurants in Mexico, the Middle East, South America and Southeast Asia are subject to national and local laws and regulations. We believe that our international franchised restaurants and procedures comply in all material respects with the laws of the applicable foreign jurisdiction. As noted above, Australia enacted "joint employer" legislation in September 2017.
EnvironmentalOur operations, including the selection and development of company-owned and franchised restaurants and any construction or improvements we or our franchisees make at those locations, are subject to a variety of federal, state and local

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laws and regulations concerning waste disposal, pollution, protection of the environment and the presence, discharge, storage, handling, release and disposal of (or exposure to), hazardous or toxic substances. We provide training to, and require compliance with applicable laws by, our employees and franchisees in the use of chemicals, which are primarily used in small quantities for cleaning our restaurants. Storage, discharge and disposal of hazardous substances are not a significant part of our operations. Generally, our restaurants are located in residential neighborhoods but sometimes might be located in areas which were previously occupied by more environmentally significant operations. Environmental laws can provide for significant fines and penalties for non-compliance and liabilities for remediation and sometimes require owners or operators of contaminated property to remediate the property, regardless of fault. We are not aware of any environmental laws that will materially affect our results of operations, or result in material capital expenditures relating to our operations. However, we cannot predict what environmental laws will be enacted in the future, how existing or future environmental laws will be administered, interpreted or enforced, or the amount of future expenditures that we may need to comply with, or to satisfy claims relating to, environmental laws.
Available Information
We maintain a website at www.wingstop.com, including an investor relations section at ir.wingstop.com in which we routinely post important information, such as webcast of quarterly calls and other investor events in which we participate or host, and any related materials. Our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics is also in this section of our website. You may access our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports, as well as other reports relating to us that are filed with or furnished to the SEC, free of charge in the investor relations section of our website as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. The public may also read and copy materials we file with or furnish to the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room, which is located at 100 F Street, NE, Room 1580, Washington, DC 20549. You can obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. The SEC also maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.SEC.gov.
The contents of the website mentioned above are not incorporated into and should not be considered part of this report. The references to URLs for these websites are intended to be inactive textual references only.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry
If we fail to successfully implement our growth strategy, which includes opening new restaurants, our ability to increase our revenue and operating profits could be adversely affected.
Our growth strategy relies substantially upon new restaurant development by existing and new franchisees and we are continuously seeking to identify target markets where we can enter or expand, taking into account numerous factors such as the location of our current restaurants, demographics, traffic patterns and information gathered from local employees. While we believe there is opportunity for our brand to grow to up to approximately 2,500 domestic restaurants over the long term, we do not currently target a specific number of annual new restaurant openings over a multi-year period. We and our franchisees face many challenges in opening new restaurants, including:
availability of financing;
selection and availability of suitable restaurant locations;
competition for restaurant sites;
negotiation of acceptable lease and financing terms;
securing required governmental permits and approvals, including zoning approvals;
expansion into new markets, consumer tastes in new markets and acceptance of our products;
employment and training of qualified personnel in local markets;
impact of inclement weather, natural disasters, and other acts of nature;
general economic and business conditions;
unanticipated increases in construction and development costs; and
the general legal and regulatory landscape in which we and our restaurants operate.
In particular, because the majority of our new restaurant development is funded by franchisee investment, our growth strategy is dependent on our franchisees’ (or prospective franchisees’) ability to access funds to finance such development. We do not provide our franchisees with direct financing and therefore their ability to access borrowed funds generally depends on their independent relationships with various financial institutions. Some of our existing franchisees utilize loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) which guarantees loans made by financial institutions to small businesses in the U.S., including franchisees. If SBA guaranteed loans are no longer available to our franchisees (or potential franchisees), their ability to obtain the requisite financing at attractive rates, or at all, could be adversely affected. Moreover, if our franchisees (or prospective franchisees) are not able to obtain financing from any source at commercially reasonable rates, or at all, they may be unwilling or unable to invest in the development of new restaurants, and our future growth could be adversely affected.
As a result of the foregoing, we cannot predict the time period over which we may achieve our anticipated level of domestic restaurant growth or whether we will achieve this level of growth at all. In addition, as we continue to grow our business, our rate of expansion relative to the size of our restaurant base will eventually decline.
To the extent our franchisees are unable to open new restaurants as we anticipate, our revenue growth would come primarily from growth in same store sales. Our failure to add a significant number of new restaurants or grow domestic same store sales would adversely affect our ability to increase our revenue and operating income and could materially and adversely harm our business and operating results.
Changes in food and supply costs could adversely affect our results of operations.
Our profitability depends in part on our ability to anticipate and react to changes in food and supply costs. Any increase in the prices of the ingredients most critical to our menu, particularly chicken, could adversely affect our operating results. Bone-in chicken wing prices, which we do not effectively hedge, in our company-owned restaurants in 2017 averaged 18% higher than in 2016 as the average price per pound increased. If there is a significant rise in the price or size of bone-in chicken wings, and we are unable to successfully adjust menu prices or otherwise make operational adjustments to account for the higher wing prices, our operating results could be adversely affected. For example, bone-in chicken wings accounted for approximately 31% of our costs of sales in fiscal 2017 and 2016. A hypothetical 10% increase in the bone-in chicken wing costs for fiscal 2017 would have increased cost of sales by approximately $0.9 million for fiscal 2017.

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Although we try to manage the impact that these fluctuations have on our operating results, we remain susceptible to increases in food costs as a result of factors beyond our control, such as general economic conditions, seasonal fluctuations, weather conditions, demand, food safety concerns, product recalls and government regulations. Inflation also increases the costs of our food frequently. Additionally, avian influenza, or similar poultry-related diseases, may negatively affect the supply chain by increasing costs and limiting availability of chicken. As a result, we may not be able to anticipate or react to changing food costs by adjusting our purchasing practices or menu prices, which could cause our operating results to deteriorate. In addition, because we provide moderately-priced food, we may choose not to, or be unable to, pass along commodity price increases to our customers.
Our success depends in significant part on the future performance of existing and new franchise restaurants, and we are subject to a variety of additional risks associated with our franchisees.
A substantial portion of our revenue comes from royalties generated by our franchised restaurants. We anticipate that franchise royalties will represent a substantial part of our revenue in the future. As of December 30, 2017, we had 314 domestic franchisees operating 1,004 domestic restaurants and 8 international franchisees operating 106 international restaurants. Our largest franchisee operated 67 restaurants and our top 10 franchisees operated a total of 283 restaurants as of December 30, 2017. Accordingly, we are reliant on the performance of our franchisees in successfully operating their restaurants and paying royalties to us on a timely basis. Our franchise system subjects us to a number of risks, any one of which may impact our ability to collect royalty payments from our franchisees, may harm the goodwill associated with our franchise, and may materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.
Our franchisees are an integral part of our business. We may be unable to successfully implement our growth strategy without the participation of our franchisees and the adherence by our franchisees of our restaurant operation guidelines. Because our ability to control our franchisees is limited, our franchisees may fail to focus on the fundamentals of restaurant operations, such as quality, service and cleanliness, which would have a negative impact on our success. In addition, our franchisees may fail to participate in our marketing initiatives, which could materially adversely affect their sales trends, average weekly sales and results of operations. Although we provide frequent training opportunities to our franchisees to ensure consistency among our operations, there may be differences in product quality of operations at our franchised restaurants that impacts the profitability of those restaurants.
In addition, if our franchisees fail to renew their franchise agreements, our royalty revenue may decrease which in turn could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results. It also may be difficult for us to monitor our international franchisees’ implementation of our growth strategy due to our lack of personnel in the markets served by such franchisees.
Furthermore, a bankruptcy of any multi-unit franchisee could negatively impact our ability to collect payments due under such franchisee’s franchise agreements. In a franchisee bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee may reject its franchise agreements pursuant to Section 365 under the United States bankruptcy code, in which case there would be no further royalty payments from such franchisee. The amount of the proceeds, if any, that may ultimately be recovered in a bankruptcy proceeding of such franchisee may not be sufficient to satisfy a damage claim resulting from such rejection.
 
If we fail to identify, recruit and contract with a sufficient number of qualified franchisees, our ability to open new franchised restaurants and increase our revenue could be materially adversely affected.
The opening of additional franchised restaurants depends, in part, upon the availability of prospective franchisees who meet our criteria. We may not be able to identify, recruit or contract with suitable franchisees in our target markets on a timely basis or at all. Although we have developed criteria to evaluate and screen prospective franchisees, our franchisees may not ultimately have the business acumen or be able to access the financial or management resources that they need to open and successfully operate the restaurants contemplated by their agreements with us, or they may elect to cease restaurant development for other reasons and state franchise laws may limit our ability to terminate or modify these license agreements. If we are unable to recruit suitable franchisees or if franchisees are unable or unwilling to open new restaurants as planned, our growth may be slower than anticipated, which could materially adversely affect our ability to increase our revenue and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our success depends on our ability to compete with many other restaurants.
The restaurant industry in general, and the fast casual category in particular, are intensely competitive, and we compete with many well-established restaurant companies on the basis of food taste and quality, price, service, value, location, convenience and overall customer experience. Our competitors include restaurant chains and individual restaurants that range from independent local operators to well-capitalized national and regional restaurant companies, including restaurants offering chicken wing products, as well as dine-in, carry-out and delivery services offering other types of food.

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Some of our competitors have substantially greater financial and other resources than we do, which may allow them to react to changes in the restaurant industry better than we can. Other competitors are local restaurants that in some cases have a loyal guest base and strong brand recognition within a particular market. As our competitors expand their operations or as new competitors enter the industry, we expect competition to intensify. Should our competitors increase their spending on advertising and promotions, we could experience a loss of customer traffic to our competitors. Also, if our advertising and promotions become less effective than those of our competitors, we could experience a material adverse effect on our results of operations. We and our franchisees also compete with other restaurant chains and other retail businesses for quality site locations, management and hourly employees.
Additionally, we face the risk that new or existing competitors will copy our business model, menu options, presentation or ambiance, among other things. Consumer tastes, nutritional and dietary trends, traffic patterns and the type, number and location of competing restaurants often affect the restaurant business, and our competitors may react more efficiently and effectively to those conditions. In addition, many of our competitors offer lower-priced menu options or meal packages, or have loyalty programs. Several of our competitors compete by offering a broader range of menu items, including items that are specifically identified as low in carbohydrates or healthier, a strategy that we do not currently pursue. This competition in the variety of products offered and the price of products may adversely impact our sales.
Moreover, we may also compete with companies outside the fast casual and quick service and casual dining segments of the restaurant industry. For example, competitive pressures can come from deli sections and in-store cafés of several major grocery store chains, including those targeted at customers who want healthier food, as well as from convenience stores and other dining outlets. These competitors may have, among other things, a more diverse menu, lower operating costs, better locations, better facilities, better management, more effective marketing and more efficient operations than we have.
If we are unable to compete effectively, it could decrease our traffic, sales and profit margins, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our expansion into new markets may present increased risks.
Some of our new restaurants are planned for markets where there may be limited or no market recognition of our brand. Those markets may have competitive conditions, consumer tastes and discretionary spending patterns that are different from those in our existing markets, and we may encounter well-established competitors with substantially greater financial resources than us. As a result, those new restaurants may be less successful than restaurants in our existing markets.
We may need to build brand awareness in that market through greater investments in advertising and promotional activity than we originally planned, which could negatively impact the profitability of our operations in new markets. Our franchisees may find it more difficult in new markets to hire, motivate and keep qualified employees who can project our vision, passion and culture. In addition, we may have difficulty finding reliable suppliers or distributors or ones that can provide us, either initially or over time, with adequate supplies of ingredients meeting our quality standards. Restaurants opened in new markets may also have lower average restaurant sales than restaurants opened in existing markets. Sales at restaurants opened in new markets may take longer to ramp up and reach expected sales and profit levels, and may never do so, thereby affecting our overall profitability. Additionally, new markets may have higher rents and labor rates as compared to existing markets that negatively affect unit economics.
Food safety, food-borne illness and other health concerns may have an adverse effect on our business.
Food safety is a top priority, and we dedicate substantial resources to ensure that our customers enjoy safe, quality food products. However, food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella, E. coli or hepatitis A, and food safety issues have occurred in the food industry in the past, and could occur in the future. Any report or publicity linking our restaurants to instances of food-borne illness or other food safety issues, including food tampering or contamination, could adversely affect our brand and reputation as well as our revenue and profits. Even instances of food-borne illness, food tampering or food contamination occurring solely at restaurants of our competitors could result in negative publicity about the food service industry or fast casual restaurants generally and adversely impact our restaurants.
In addition, our reliance on third-party food suppliers and distributors increases the risk that food-borne illness incidents could be caused by factors outside of our control and that multiple restaurants would be affected rather than a single restaurant. We cannot assure that all food items are properly maintained during transport throughout the supply chain and that our employees and our franchisees and their employees will identify all products that may be spoiled and should not be used in our restaurants. In addition, our industry has long been subject to the threat of food tampering by suppliers, employees, and others such as the addition of foreign objects in the food that we sell. Reports, whether or not true, of injuries caused by food tampering have in the past severely injured the reputations and brands of restaurant chains in the quick service restaurant segment and could affect us in the future as well. If our customers become ill from food-borne illnesses, we could also be forced to temporarily close some restaurants.

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Furthermore, any instances of food contamination, whether or not at our restaurants, could subject our restaurants or our suppliers to a food recall pursuant to the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act.
Furthermore, the United States and other countries have also experienced, and may experience in the future, outbreaks of viruses, such as H1N1, avian influenza, various other forms of influenza, enterovirus, SARS and Ebola. To the extent that a virus is transmitted by human-to-human contact, our employees or customers could become infected or could choose, or be advised, to avoid gathering in public places and avoid eating in restaurant establishments such as our restaurants, which could adversely affect our business.
Interruptions in the supply of product to company-owned restaurants and franchisees could adversely affect our revenue.
In order to maintain quality-control standards and consistency among restaurants, we require through our franchise agreements that our franchisees obtain food and other supplies from preferred suppliers approved in advance. In this regard, we and our franchisees depend on a group of suppliers for food ingredients, beverages, paper goods, and distribution, including, but not limited to, four primary chicken suppliers, Sygma for distribution, The Coca-Cola Company, and other suppliers. In 2017, we and our franchisees purchased products from approximately 120 approved suppliers, with approximately 10 of such suppliers providing 85%, based on dollar volume, of all products purchased. We look to approve multiple suppliers for most products, and require any single sourced supplier, such as The Coca-Cola Company, to have contingency plans in place to ensure continuity of supply. In addition, we believe that, if necessary, we could obtain readily available alternative sources of supply for each product that we currently source through a single supplier. To facilitate the efficiency of our franchisees’ supply chain, we have historically entered into several preferred-supplier arrangements for particular food or beverage items. In addition, our restaurants bear risks associated with the timeliness, solvency, reputation, labor relations, freight costs, price of raw materials, and compliance with health and safety standards of each supplier, including, but not limited to, risks associated with contamination to food and beverage products. We have little control over such suppliers. Disruptions in these relationships may reduce franchisee sales and, in turn, our royalty income. Overall difficulty of suppliers meeting restaurant product demand, interruptions in the supply chain, obstacles or delays in the process of renegotiating or renewing agreements with preferred suppliers, financial difficulties experienced by suppliers, or the deficiency, lack, or poor quality of alternative suppliers could adversely impact franchisee sales and our company-owned restaurant sales, which, in turn, would reduce our royalty income and revenue and could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
 You should not rely on past increases in our domestic same store sales or our AUV as an indication of our future results of operations because they may fluctuate significantly.
A number of factors have historically affected, and will continue to affect, our domestic same store sales and AUV, including, among other factors:
competition;
consumer trends and confidence;
our ability to execute our business strategy effectively;
unusually strong initial sales performance by new restaurants; and
regional and national macroeconomic conditions.
The level of domestic same store sales is a critical factor affecting our ability to generate profits because the profit margin on domestic same store sales is generally higher than the profit margin on new restaurant sales. Domestic same store sales reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the domestic same store base. We define the domestic same store base to include those restaurants open for at least 52 full weeks.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly and could fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors due to certain factors, some of which are beyond our control, resulting in a decline in our stock price.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly because of several factors, including:
the timing of new restaurant openings;
profitability of our restaurants, especially in new markets;
changes in interest rates;
increases and decreases in average weekly sales and domestic same store sales, including due to the timing and popularity of sporting and other events;

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macroeconomic conditions, both nationally and locally;
changes in consumer preferences and competitive conditions;
impairment of long-lived assets and any loss on restaurant closures;
 
increases in infrastructure costs; and
fluctuations in commodity prices.
As a result, our quarterly and annual operating results and domestic same store sales may fluctuate significantly as a result of the factors discussed above. Accordingly, results for any one fiscal quarter are not necessarily indicative of results to be expected for any other fiscal quarter or for any fiscal year and domestic same store sales for any particular future period may decrease. The planned increase in the number of our restaurants may make our future results unpredictable and, if we fail to manage such growth effectively, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected. In the future, operating results may fall below the expectations of securities analysts and investors. In that event, the price of our common stock would likely decrease.
If we or our franchisees or licensees are unable to protect our customers’ credit card data and other personal information, we or our franchisees could be exposed to data loss, litigation, and liability, and our reputation could be significantly harmed.
Privacy protection is increasingly demanding, and the use of electronic payment methods and collection of other personal information expose us and our franchisees to increased risk of privacy and/or security breaches as well as other risks. The majority of our restaurant sales are by credit or debit cards. In connection with credit or debit card transactions in-restaurant, we and our franchisees collect and transmit confidential information by way of private retail networks. Additionally, we collect and store personal information from individuals, including our customers, franchisees, and employees.
 
Our franchisees have experienced security breaches in which credit and debit card information could have been stolen and we and our franchisees may experience security breaches in which credit and debit card information is stolen in the future. Although we use private networks to transmit confidential information, third parties may have the technology or know-how to breach the security of the customer information transmitted in connection with credit and debit card sales, and our security measures and those of technology vendors may not effectively prohibit others from obtaining improper access to this information. The techniques used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade service, or sabotage systems change frequently and are often difficult to detect for long periods of time, which may cause a breach to go undetected for an extensive period of time. Advances in computer and software capabilities, new tools, and other developments may increase the risk of such a breach. Further, the systems currently used for transmission and approval of electronic payment transactions, and the technology utilized in electronic payment themselves, all of which can put electronic payment at risk, are determined and controlled by the payment card industry, not by us, through enforcement of compliance with the Payment Card Industry - Data Security Standards, or PCI DSS. We and our franchisees must abide by the PCI DSS, as modified from time to time, in order to accept electronic payment transactions. Furthermore, the payment card industry is requiring vendors to become compatible with smart chip technology for payment cards, or EMV-Compliant, or else bear full responsibility for certain fraud losses, referred to as the EMV Liability Shift, which could adversely affect our business. To become EMV-Compliant, merchants must utilize EMV-Compliant payment card terminals at the point of sale, or POS, and also obtain a variety of certifications. At present, our company-owned and franchised restaurants are not required to upgrade their POS systems to include such EMV-Compliant payment card terminals and as a result, may be at increased risk for breaches, which could adversely affect our business and operating results. In addition, our franchisees, contractors, or third parties with whom we do business or to whom we outsource business operations may attempt to circumvent our security measures in order to misappropriate such information, and may purposefully or inadvertently cause a breach involving such information. If a person is able to circumvent our security measures or those of third parties, he or she could destroy or steal valuable information or disrupt our operations. We may become subject to claims for purportedly fraudulent transactions arising out of the actual or alleged theft of credit or debit card information, and we may also be subject to lawsuits or other proceedings relating to these types of incidents. Any such claim or proceeding could cause us to incur significant unplanned expenses, which could have an adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Further, adverse publicity resulting from these allegations could significantly harm our reputation and may have a material adverse effect on us and our restaurants. While we currently maintain a cyber liability insurance policy, our cyber liability coverage may be inadequate or may not be available in the future on acceptable terms, or at all. In addition, our cyber liability insurance policy may not cover all claims made against us, and defending a suit, regardless of its merit, could be costly and divert management’s attention.

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Our business activities subject us to litigation risk that could affect us adversely by subjecting us to significant money damages and other remedies or by increasing our litigation expense.
We and our franchisees are, from time to time, the subject of, or potentially the subject of, complaints or litigation, including customer claims, personal-injury claims, environmental claims, employee allegations of improper termination and discrimination, claims related to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or the ADA, religious freedom, the Fair Labor Standards Act, or the FLSA, other employment-related laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, or ERISA, advertising laws and intellectual property claims. Each of these claims may increase costs and limit the funds available to make royalty payments and reduce the execution of new franchise agreements. Litigation against a franchisee or its affiliates by third parties or regulatory agencies, whether in the ordinary course of business or otherwise, may also include claims against us by virtue of our relationship with the defendant-franchisee, whether under vicarious liability, joint employer, or other theories. In addition to decreasing the ability of a defendant-franchisee to make royalty payments in the event of such claims and diverting our management and financial resources, adverse publicity resulting from such allegations may materially and adversely affect us and our brand, regardless of whether these allegations are valid or whether we are liable. Our international operations may be subject to additional risks related to litigation, including difficulties in enforcement of contractual obligations governed by foreign law due to differing interpretations of rights and obligations, compliance with multiple and potentially conflicting laws, new and potentially untested laws and judicial systems, and reduced or diminished protection of intellectual property. A substantial judgment against us or one of our subsidiaries could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
We could also become subject to class action or other lawsuits related to the above-described or different matters in the future. Regardless, however, of whether any claim brought against us in the future is valid or whether we are liable, such a claim would be expensive to defend and may divert time, money and other valuable resources away from our operations and, thereby, hurt our business.
We and our franchisees are also subject to state and local “dram shop” statutes, which may subject us and our franchisees to uninsured liabilities. These statutes generally allow a person injured by an intoxicated person to recover damages from an establishment that wrongfully served alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person. Because a plaintiff may seek punitive damages, which may not be fully covered by insurance, this type of action could have an adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations. A judgment in such an action significantly in excess of insurance coverage could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Further, adverse publicity resulting from any such allegations may adversely affect us and our restaurants taken as a whole.
Although we maintain what we believe to be adequate levels of insurance, insurance may not be available at all or in sufficient amounts to cover any liabilities with respect to these or other matters. A judgment or other liability in excess of our insurance coverage for any claims or any adverse publicity resulting from claims could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We may engage in litigation with our franchisees.
Although we believe we generally enjoy a positive working relationship with the vast majority of our franchisees, the nature of the franchisor-franchisee relationship may give rise to litigation with our franchisees. In the ordinary course of business, we are the subject of complaints or litigation from franchisees, usually related to alleged breaches of contract or wrongful termination under the franchise arrangements. We may also engage in future litigation with franchisees to enforce the terms of our franchise agreements and compliance with our brand standards as determined necessary to protect our brand, the consistency of our products and the customer experience. We may also engage in future litigation with franchisees to enforce our contractual indemnification rights if we are brought into a matter involving a third party due to the franchisee’s alleged acts or omissions. In addition, we may be subject to claims by our franchisees relating to our Franchise Disclosure Document, or FDD, including claims based on financial information contained in our FDD. Engaging in such litigation may be costly and time-consuming and may distract management and materially adversely affect our relationships with franchisees and our ability to attract new franchisees. Any negative outcome of these or any other claims could materially adversely affect our results of operations as well as our ability to expand our franchise system and may damage our reputation and brand. Furthermore, existing and future franchise-related legislation could subject us to additional litigation risk in the event we terminate or fail to renew a franchise relationship.
Changes to the current law with respect to the assignment of liabilities in the franchise business model could adversely impact our profitability.
One of the legal foundations fundamental to the franchise business model has been that, absent special circumstances, a franchisor is generally not responsible for the acts, omissions or liabilities of its franchisees, whether with respect to the franchisees’ employees or otherwise. However, in an August 27, 2015, National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, decision, Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., the NLRB adopted a broader and looser standard for determining joint employer status. Under the NLRB’s

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new joint employer standard, a putative joint employer is no longer required to exercise “direct and immediate” control over workers’ terms and conditions of employment. “Indirect” or even “reserved” control is now potentially sufficient to establish a joint employment relationship. Although Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. was not a case involving a franchise relationship, and while the NLRB’s opinion explicitly stated it was not addressing the franchise industry, it is unclear how the NLRB will apply the expanded joint employer definition adopted in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. to franchise relationships overall or to particular franchise relationships sharing certain characteristics or controls. If the NLRB’s new position is applied broadly to franchise relationships, it could significantly change the way we and other franchisors conduct business and adversely impact our profitability. For example, the General Counsel of the NLRB continues to prosecute complaints in Regional Offices across the country (first issued in December 2014) charging that McDonald’s and its franchisees are joint employers and seeking to hold McDonald’s liable for unfair labor practices allegedly committed by its franchisees. The position taken by the NLRB General Counsel has set in motion what are expected to be lengthy hearings before the NLRB. The decision of the NLRB is subject to subsequent federal court litigation and is not expected to be resolved until a final decision in the federal appellate courts. A determination, due to the new standard adopted in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., that we are a “joint employer” with our franchisees or that our franchisees are part of one unified system with joint and several liability under the National Labor Relations Act, statutes administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, regulations and other areas of labor and employment law could subject us and/or our franchisees to liability for the unfair labor practices, wage-and-hour law violations, employment discrimination law violations, OSHA regulation violations and other employment-related liabilities of one or more franchisees. Furthermore, this change in the law could create an increased likelihood that certain franchised networks will be required to employ unionized labor, which could impact franchisors like us through, among other things, increased labor costs, increased menu prices to offset labor costs and difficulty in attracting new franchisees. In addition, if these changes are expanded outside of the employment context, we could be held liable for other claims against franchisees such as personal injury claims by customers at franchised restaurants. Therefore, any regulatory action or court decisions expanding the vicarious liability of franchisors could impact our ability or desire to grow our franchised base and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
 
Macroeconomic conditions could adversely affect our ability to increase sales at existing restaurants or open new restaurants.
Recessionary economic cycles, higher fuel and other energy costs, lower housing values, low consumer confidence, inflation, increases in commodity prices, higher interest rates, higher levels of unemployment, higher consumer debt levels, higher tax rates and other changes in tax laws or other economic factors that may affect discretionary consumer spending could adversely affect our revenue and profit margins and make opening new restaurants more difficult. Our customers may have lower disposable income and reduce the frequency with which they dine out during economic downturns. This could result in fewer transactions and reduced transaction size or limitations on the prices we can charge for our menu items, any of which could reduce our sales and profit margins. Also, businesses in the shopping vicinity in which some of our restaurants are located may experience difficulty as a result of macroeconomic trends or cease to operate, which could, in turn, further negatively affect customer traffic at our restaurants. All of these factors could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations and growth strategy.
In addition, negative effects on our and our franchisees’ existing and potential landlords due to the inaccessibility of credit and other unfavorable economic factors may, in turn, adversely affect our business and results of operations. If our or our franchisees’ landlords are unable to obtain financing or remain in good standing under their existing financing arrangements, they may be unable to provide construction contributions or satisfy other lease obligations owed to us or our franchisees. In addition, if our and our franchisees’ landlords are unable to obtain sufficient credit to continue to properly manage their retail sites, we may experience a drop in the level of quality of such retail centers. The development of new restaurants may also be adversely affected by negative economic factors affecting developers and potential landlords. Developers and/or landlords may try to delay or cancel recent development projects (as well as renovations of existing projects) due to instability in the credit markets and declines in consumer spending, which could reduce the number of appropriate locations available that we would consider for our new restaurants. Furthermore, other tenants at the properties in which our restaurants are located may delay their openings, fail to open or cease operations. Decreases in total tenant occupancy in the properties in which our restaurants are located may affect customer traffic at our restaurants.
If any of the foregoing affect any of our or our franchisees’ landlords, developers and/or surrounding tenants, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected. To the extent our restaurants are part of a larger retail project or tourist destination, customer traffic could be negatively impacted by economic factors affecting surrounding tenants.
Because many of our restaurants are concentrated in local or regional areas, we are susceptible to economic and other trends and developments, including adverse weather conditions, in these areas.
As of December 30, 2017, 60% of our 1,027 domestic restaurants were spread across Texas (31%), California (23%) and Illinois (6%). Given our geographic concentrations, negative publicity regarding any of our restaurants in these areas could have a material

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adverse effect on our business and operations, as could other regional occurrences such as local strikes, terrorist attacks, increases in energy prices, or natural or man-made disasters and more stringent state and local laws and regulations. In particular, adverse weather conditions, such as regional winter storms, floods, severe thunderstorms, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, could negatively impact our results of operations.
We and our franchisees rely on computer systems to process transactions and manage our business, and a disruption or a failure of such systems or technology could harm our ability to effectively manage our business.
Network and information technology systems are integral to our business. We utilize various computer systems, including our franchisee reporting system, by which our franchisees report their weekly sales and pay their corresponding royalty fees and required advertising fund contributions. When sales are reported by a franchisee, a withdrawal for the authorized amount is initiated from the franchisee’s bank on a set date each week based on gross sales during the week ended the prior Saturday. This system is critical to our ability to accurately track sales and compute royalties and advertising fund contributions due from our franchisees. We also rely on computer systems and network infrastructure across other areas of our operations, including marketing programs, employee engagement, management of our supply chain and POS processing in our restaurants.
Our operations depend upon our ability to protect our computer equipment and systems against damage from physical theft, fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or other catastrophic events, as well as from internal and external security breaches, viruses, worms and other disruptive problems. Any damage or failure of our computer systems or network infrastructure that causes an interruption in our operations could have a material adverse effect on our business and subject us to litigation or actions by regulatory authorities.
Despite the implementation of protective measures, our systems are subject to damage and/or interruption as a result of power outages, computer and network failures, computer viruses and other disruptive software, security breaches, catastrophic events, and improper usage by employees. Such events could result in a material disruption in operations, a need for a costly repair, upgrade or replacement of systems, or a decrease in, or in the collection of, royalties and advertising fund contributions paid to us by our franchisees. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability which could materially affect our results of operations.
It is also critical that we establish and maintain certain licensing and software agreements for the software we use in our day-to-day operations. A failure to procure or maintain these licenses could have a material adverse effect on our business operations.
Failure to obtain and maintain required licenses and permits or to comply with alcoholic beverage or food control regulations could lead to the loss of liquor and food service licenses and, thereby, harm our business.
The restaurant industry is subject to various federal, state and local government regulations, including those relating to the sale of food and alcoholic beverages. Such regulations are subject to change from time to time. The failure of our restaurants to obtain and maintain these licenses, permits and approvals could adversely affect our operating results. Typically, licenses must be renewed annually and may be revoked, suspended or denied renewal for cause at any time if governmental authorities determine that a restaurant’s conduct violates applicable regulations. Difficulties or failure to maintain or obtain the required licenses and approvals could adversely affect our existing restaurants and delay or result in our decision to cancel the opening of new restaurants, which would adversely affect our results of operations.
Alcoholic beverage control regulations require each of our restaurants to apply to a state authority and, in certain locations, county or municipal authorities for a license or permit to sell alcoholic beverages on-premises and to provide service for extended hours and on Sundays. Alcoholic beverage control regulations relate to numerous aspects of daily operations of our restaurants, including minimum age of patrons and employees, hours of operation, advertising, trade practices, wholesale purchasing, other relationships with alcohol manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, inventory control and handling, and storage and dispensing of alcoholic beverages. Any future failure to comply with these regulations and obtain or retain liquor licenses could adversely affect our results of operations.
 
Our current insurance and the insurance of our franchisees may not provide adequate levels of coverage against claims.
We currently maintain insurance customary for businesses of our size and type. However, there are types of losses we may incur that cannot be insured against or that we believe are not economically reasonable to insure. Such losses could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

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Our franchise agreements require each franchisee to maintain certain insurance types and levels. Certain extraordinary hazards, however, may not be covered, and insurance may not be available (or may be available only at prohibitively expensive rates) with respect to many other risks. Moreover, any loss incurred could exceed policy limits and policy payments made to franchisees may not be made on a timely basis. Any such loss or delay in payment could have a material and adverse effect on a franchisee’s ability to satisfy obligations under the franchise agreement, including the ability to make royalty payments.
We also require franchisees to maintain general liability insurance coverage to protect against the risk of product liability and other risks and demand strict franchisee compliance with health and safety regulations. However, franchisees may receive or produce defective food or beverage products, which may materially adversely affect our brand’s goodwill and our business. Further, a franchisee’s failure to comply with health and safety regulations, including requirements relating to food quality or preparation, could subject them, and possibly us, to litigation. Any litigation, including the imposition of fines or damage awards, could adversely affect the ability of a franchisee to make royalty payments or could generate negative publicity or otherwise adversely affect us.
Our business is subject to various laws and regulations and changes in such laws and regulations, and/or failure to comply with existing or future laws and regulations, could adversely affect us.
We are subject to state franchise registration requirements, the rules and regulations of the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, various state laws regulating the offer and sale of franchises in the United States through the provision of franchise disclosure documents containing certain mandatory disclosures, various state laws regulating the franchise relationship, and certain rules and requirements regulating franchising arrangements in foreign countries. Although we believe that our franchise disclosure documents, together with any applicable state-specific versions or supplements, and franchising procedures that we use comply in all material respects with both the FTC guidelines and all applicable state laws regulating franchising in those states in which we offer and grant new franchise arrangements, noncompliance could reduce anticipated royalty income, which in turn could materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
We and our franchisees are subject to various existing United States federal, state, local, and foreign laws affecting the operation of the restaurants, including various health, sanitation, fire, and safety standards. Franchisees may in the future become subject to regulation (or further regulation) seeking to tax or regulate high-fat foods, to limit the serving size of beverages containing sugar, to ban the use of certain packaging materials, or to require the display of detailed nutrition information. Each of these regulations would be costly to comply with and/or could result in reduced demand for our products.
There is also a potential for increased regulation of certain food establishments in the United States, where compliance with a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or the HACCP, approach may now be required. HACCP refers to a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of potential hazards from production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. Many states have required restaurants to develop and implement HACCP Systems, and the United States government continues to expand the sectors of the food industry that must adopt and implement HACCP programs. For example, the Food Safety Modernization Act, or the FSMA, signed into law in January 2011, granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, new authority regarding the safety of the entire food system, including through increased inspections and mandatory food recalls. Although restaurants are specifically exempted from or not directly implicated by some of these new requirements, we anticipate that the new requirements may impact our industry. Additionally, our suppliers may initiate or otherwise be subject to food recalls that may impact the availability of certain products, result in adverse publicity or require us to take actions that could be costly for us or otherwise impact our business.
We and our franchisees may also have a substantial number of hourly employees who are required to be paid pursuant to applicable federal or state minimum wage laws. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since July 24, 2009. From time to time, various federal and state legislators have proposed changes to the minimum wage requirements, especially for fast-food workers. Certain regions such as Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and New York, have approved phased-in increases that eventually will take their minimum wage to as high as $15 an hour. These and any future similar increases in other regions in states in which our restaurants operate may negatively affect our and our franchisees profit margins as we and our franchisees may be unable to increase our menu prices in order to pass future increased labor costs on to our guests. Also, reduced margins of franchisees could make it more difficult to sell franchises. If menu prices are increased by us and our franchisees to cover increased labor costs, the higher prices could adversely affect transactions which could lower sales and thereby reduce our margins and the royalties that we receive from franchisees.
The impact of current laws and regulations, the effect of future changes in laws or regulations that impose additional requirements and the consequences of litigation relating to current or future laws and regulations, or our inability to respond effectively to significant regulatory or public policy issues, could increase our compliance and other costs of doing business and therefore have an adverse effect on our results of operations. Failure to comply with the laws and regulatory requirements of federal, state, local and foreign authorities could result in, among other things, revocation of required licenses, administrative enforcement actions,

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fines and civil and criminal liability. In addition, certain laws, including the ADA, could require us or our franchisees to expend significant funds to make modifications to our restaurants if we failed to comply with applicable standards. Compliance with all of these laws and regulations can be costly and can increase our exposure to litigation or governmental investigations or proceedings.
Damage to our reputation or lack of acceptance of our brand in existing or new markets could negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We believe we have built our reputation on the high quality and bold, distinctive and craveable flavors of our food, value and service, and we must protect and grow the value of our brand to continue to be successful in the future. Any incident that erodes consumer affinity for our brand could significantly reduce its value and damage our business. For example, our brand value could suffer and our business could be adversely affected if customers perceive a reduction in the quality of our food, value or service or otherwise believe we have failed to deliver a consistently positive experience. We may also be adversely affected by customers’ experiences with third-party delivery from our restaurants.
We may be adversely affected by news reports or other negative publicity, regardless of their accuracy, regarding food quality issues, public health concerns, illness, safety, injury, security breaches of confidential guest or employee information, employee related claims relating to alleged employment discrimination, wage and hour violation, labor standards or health care and benefit issues or government or industry findings concerning our restaurants, restaurants operated by other foodservice providers, or others across the food industry supply chain. The risks associated with such negative publicity cannot be eliminated or completely mitigated and may materially affect our business.
Also, there has been a marked increase in the use of social media platforms and similar channels, including weblogs (blogs), websites and other forms of internet-based communications that provide individuals with access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. The availability of information on social media platforms is virtually immediate as is its impact. Many social media platforms immediately publish the content their subscribers and participants can post, often without filters or checks on accuracy of the content posted. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate information, is seemingly limitless and readily available. Information concerning us may be posted on such platforms at any time. Information posted may be adverse to our interests or may be inaccurate, each of which may harm our performance, prospects, brand or business. The harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction.
Ultimately, the risks associated with any such negative publicity or incorrect information cannot be eliminated or completely mitigated and may materially adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Opening new restaurants in existing markets may negatively affect sales at existing restaurants.
We intend to continue opening new franchised restaurants in our existing markets as a core part of our growth strategy. Expansion in existing markets may be affected by local economic and market conditions. Further, the customer target area of our restaurants varies by location, depending on a number of factors, including population density, other local retail and business attractions, area demographics and geography. As a result, the opening of a new restaurant in or near markets in which our restaurants already exist could adversely affect the sales of these existing restaurants. We and our franchisees may selectively open new restaurants in and around areas of existing restaurants. Sales cannibalization between restaurants may become significant in the future as we continue to expand our operations and could affect sales growth, which could, in turn, materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
 Our expansion into international markets exposes us to a number of risks that may differ in each country where we have franchise restaurants.
As of December 30, 2017, we have franchised restaurants in Mexico, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Colombia and plan to continue to grow internationally. However, international operations are in early stages. Expansion in international markets may be affected by local economic and market conditions. Therefore, as we expand internationally, our franchisees may not experience the operating margins we expect, and our results of operations and growth may be materially and adversely affected. Our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected if the global markets in which our franchised restaurants compete are affected by changes in political, economic or other factors. These factors, over which neither our franchisees nor we have control, may include:
recessionary or expansive trends in international markets;
changing labor conditions and difficulties in staffing and managing our foreign operations;
increases in the taxes we pay and other changes in applicable tax laws;

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legal and regulatory changes, and the burdens and costs of our compliance with a variety of foreign laws;
changes in inflation rates;
changes in exchange rates and the imposition of restrictions on currency conversion or the transfer of funds;
difficulty in protecting our brand, reputation and intellectual property;
difficulty in collecting our royalties and longer payment cycles;
expropriation of private enterprises;
anti-American sentiment in certain locations and the identification of the Wingstop brand as an American brand;
political and economic instability; and
other external factors.
Our success depends in part upon effective advertising and marketing campaigns, which may not be successful, and franchisee support of such advertising and marketing campaigns.
We believe the Wingstop brand is critical to our business and expend resources in our marketing efforts using a variety of media. We expect to continue to conduct brand awareness programs and customer initiatives to attract and retain customers. Should our advertising and promotions not be effective, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
The support of our franchisees is critical for the success of the advertising and marketing campaigns we seek to undertake, and the successful execution of these campaigns will depend on our ability to maintain alignment with our franchisees. Our franchisees are currently required to contribute two percent of their gross sales to a common ad fund to support the development of new products, brand development and national marketing programs. Our current form of franchise agreement also requires franchisees to spend at least one percent of gross sales directly on local advertising, but the majority of our franchisees are not subject to such requirement. Franchisees also may be required to contribute approximately two percent of gross sales to a cooperative advertising association when a franchisee and at least one other restaurant operator have opened restaurants in the same DMA (the cooperative advertising contribution is credited toward the 1% minimum spend). While we maintain control over advertising and marketing materials and can mandate certain strategic initiatives pursuant to our franchise agreements, we need the active support of our franchisees if the implementation of these initiatives is to be successful. If our initiatives are not successful, resulting in expenses incurred without the benefit of higher revenue, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely effected.
 We are vulnerable to changes in consumer preferences and regulation of consumer eating habits that could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow.
Consumer preferences often change rapidly and without warning, moving from one trend to another among many product or retail concepts. We depend on trends regarding away-from-home or take-out dining. Consumer preferences towards away-from-home and take-out dining or certain food products might shift as a result of, among other things, health concerns or dietary trends related to cholesterol, carbohydrate, fat and salt content of certain food items, including chicken wings, in favor of foods that are perceived as more healthy. Our menu is currently comprised primarily of chicken wings and a change in consumer preferences away from these offerings would have a material adverse effect on our business. Negative publicity over the health aspects of the food items we sell may adversely affect demand for our menu items and could result in lower traffic, sales and results of operations. Our continued success will depend in part on our ability to anticipate, identify and respond to changing consumer preferences.
Regulations and consumer eating habits may continue to change as a result of new information and attitudes regarding diet and health. These changes may include regulations that impact the ingredients and nutritional content of our menu items. The federal government, as well as a number of states, counties and cities, have enacted menu labeling laws requiring multi-unit restaurant operators to make certain nutritional information available to customers or have enacted legislation prohibiting the sales of certain types of ingredients in restaurants. For example, the PPACA establishes a uniform, federal requirement for certain restaurants to post nutritional information on their menus, which must be implemented upon the promulgation of regulations by the FDA. California, a state in which 23% of our domestic restaurants are located, has also enacted menu labeling laws. Altering our recipes in response to such legislation could increase our costs and/or change the flavor profile of our menu offerings which could have an adverse impact on our results of operations. Additionally, if our customers perceive our menu items to contain unhealthy caloric, sugar, sodium, or fat content, our results of operations could be adversely affected. The success of our restaurant operations depends, in part, upon our ability to effectively respond to changes in consumer health and disclosure regulations and to adapt our menu offerings to fit the dietary needs and eating habits of our customers without sacrificing flavor. To the extent we are unable to

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respond with appropriate changes to our menu offerings, it could materially affect customer traffic and our results of operations. Furthermore, a change in our menu could result in a decrease in customer traffic.
We depend upon our executive officers and management team and may not be able to retain or replace these individuals or recruit additional personnel, which could harm our business.
We believe that we have already benefited and expect to benefit substantially in the future from the leadership and experience of our executive officers and management team. The loss of the services of any of these individuals could have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects, as we may not be able to find suitable individuals to replace such personnel on a timely basis. In addition, any such departure could be viewed in a negative light by investors and analysts, which could cause our common stock price to decline. As our business expands, our future success will depend greatly on our continued ability to attract and retain highly-skilled and qualified executive-level personnel. Our inability to attract and retain qualified executive officers in the future could impair our growth and harm our business.
The number of new franchised Wingstop restaurants that actually open in the future may differ materially from the number of signed commitments from potential existing and new franchisees.
The number of new franchised Wingstop restaurants that actually open in the future may differ materially from the number of signed commitments from potential existing and new franchisees. Historically, a portion of our commitments sold have not ultimately opened as new franchised Wingstop restaurants. On an annual basis for the past four years approximately 10% - 20% of the total domestic commitments sold have been terminated. Based on our limited history of international restaurant openings, we believe the termination rate of international commitments is likely to approximate the historic termination rate of domestic commitments. The historic conversion rate of signed commitments to new franchised Wingstop locations may not be indicative of the conversion rates we will experience in the future and the total number of new franchised Wingstop restaurants actually opened in the future may differ materially from the number of signed commitments disclosed at any point in time.
Our stated sales to investment ratio and target unlevered cash-on-cash return may not be indicative of future results of any new franchised restaurant.
Initial investment levels, AUV levels, restaurant-level operating costs and restaurant-level operating profit of any new restaurant may differ from average levels experienced by franchisees in prior periods due to a variety of factors, and these differences may be material. Accordingly, our stated sales to investment ratio and average unlevered cash-on-cash return may not be indicative of future results of any new franchised restaurant. In addition, estimated initial investment costs and restaurant-level operating costs are based on information self-reported by our franchisees and have not been verified by us. Furthermore, performance of new restaurants is impacted by a range of risks and uncertainties beyond our or our franchisees’ control, including those described by other risk factors described in this report.
Our failure or inability to enforce our trademarks or other proprietary rights could adversely affect our competitive position or the value of our brand.
We believe that our trademarks and other proprietary rights are important to our success and our competitive position, and, therefore, we devote resources to the protection of our trademarks and proprietary rights. The protective actions that we take, however, may not be enough to prevent unauthorized use or imitation by others, which could harm our image, brand or competitive position. If we commence litigation to enforce our rights, we will incur significant legal fees.
 
We cannot assure you that third parties will not claim infringement by us of their proprietary rights in the future. Any such claim, whether or not it has merit, could be time-consuming and distracting for executive management, result in costly litigation, cause changes to existing menu items or delays in introducing new menu items, or require us to enter into royalty or licensing agreements. As a result, any such claim could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We are subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-corruption laws or trade control laws, as well as other laws governing our operations. If we fail to comply with these laws, we could be subject to civil or criminal penalties, other remedial measures, and legal expenses, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We and our franchisees are subject to anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, and other anti-corruption laws that apply in countries where we do business. The FCPA, U.K. Bribery Act and these other laws generally prohibit us, our food service personnel, our franchisees, their food service personnel and intermediaries from bribing, being bribed or making other prohibited payments to government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain some other business advantage. We operate in a number of jurisdictions that pose a high risk of potential FCPA violations, and we participate

26


in joint ventures and relationships with third parties whose actions could potentially subject us to liability under the FCPA or local anti-corruption laws. In addition, we cannot predict the nature, scope or effect of future regulatory requirements to which our international operations might be subject or the manner in which existing laws might be administered or interpreted.
We and our franchisees are also subject to other laws and regulations governing our international operations, including regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, and various non-U.S. government entities, including applicable export control regulations, economic sanctions on countries and persons, customs requirements, currency exchange regulations and transfer pricing regulations, or collectively, Trade Control laws.
However, we and our franchisees may not be completely effective in ensuring our compliance with all applicable anticorruption laws, including the FCPA, Trade Control Laws or other legal requirements. If we or our franchisees are not in compliance with the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws, we or our franchisees may be subject to criminal and civil penalties, disgorgement and other sanctions and remedial measures, and legal expenses, which could have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. Likewise, any investigation of any potential violations of the FCPA other anti-corruption laws or Trade Control laws by United States or foreign authorities could also have an adverse impact on our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
 Our existing senior secured credit facility contains financial covenants, negative covenants and other restrictions and failure to comply with these requirements could cause the related indebtedness to become due and payable and limit our ability to incur additional debt.
The lenders’ obligation to extend credit under our existing senior secured credit facility depends upon our maintaining certain financial covenants. In particular, our senior secured credit facility requires us to maintain a consolidated leverage ratio and a consolidated fixed charge coverage ratio. Failure to maintain these ratios could result in an acceleration of outstanding amounts under the term loan and revolver and restrict us from borrowing amounts under the revolving credit facility to fund our future liquidity requirements. In addition, our senior secured credit facility contains certain negative covenants, which, among other things, limit our ability to:
incur additional indebtedness;
pay dividends and make other restrictive payments beyond specified levels;
create or permit liens;
dispose of certain assets;
make certain investments;
engage in certain transactions with affiliates; and
consolidate, merge or transfer all or substantially all of our assets.
Our ability to make scheduled payments and comply with financial covenants will depend on our operating and financial performance, which, in turn, is subject to prevailing economic conditions and to other financial, business and other factors beyond our control described herein.
If we fail to maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results, or report them in a timely manner.
As a public reporting company we are subject to the rules and regulations established from time to time by the SEC and Nasdaq. These rules and regulations require, among other things, that we establish and periodically evaluate procedures with respect to our internal controls over financial reporting. Reporting obligations as a public company have placed, and may continue to place, a considerable strain on our financial and management systems, processes and controls, as well as on our personnel. In addition, as a public company we are required to document and test our internal controls over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act so that our management can certify as to the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting by the time our second annual report is filed with the SEC and thereafter, which will require us to document and make significant changes to our internal controls over financial reporting. Likewise, our independent registered public accounting firm will be required to provide an attestation report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting.
If our senior management is unable to conclude that we have effective internal control over financial reporting, or to certify the effectiveness of such controls, or if our independent registered public accounting firm cannot render an unqualified opinion on management’s assessment and the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, when required, or if material

27


weaknesses in our internal controls are identified, we could be subject to regulatory scrutiny and a loss of public and investor confidence, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and our stock price. In addition, if we do not maintain adequate financial and management personnel, processes and controls, we may not be able to manage our business effectively or accurately report our financial performance on a timely basis, which could cause a decline in our common stock price and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
An impairment in the carrying value of our goodwill or other intangible assets could adversely affect our financial condition and consolidated results of operations.
We review goodwill for impairment annually, or whenever circumstances change in a way which could indicate that impairment may have occurred, and record an impairment loss whenever we determine impairment factors are present. Significant impairment charges could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 Risks Related to Ownership of our Common Stock
Our stock price may be volatile or may decline regardless of our operating performance.
The market price of our common stock may fluctuate significantly in response to a number of factors, most of which we cannot control, including those described under “Risks Related to Our Business and Our Industry” and the following:
potential fluctuation in our annual or quarterly operating results;
changes in capital market conditions that could affect valuations of restaurant companies in general or our goodwill in particular or other adverse economic conditions;
changes in financial estimates by any securities analysts who follow our common stock, our failure to meet these estimates or failure of those analysts to initiate or maintain coverage of our common stock;
downgrades by any securities analysts who follow our common stock;
future sales of our common stock by our officers, directors and significant stockholders;
global economic, legal and regulatory factors unrelated to our performance;
investors’ perceptions of our prospects;
announcements by us or our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, joint ventures or capital commitments; and
investor perceptions of the investment opportunity associated with our common stock relative to other investment alternatives.
In addition, the stock markets, and in particular Nasdaq, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have affected and continue to affect the market prices of equity securities of many food service companies. In the past, stockholders have instituted securities class action litigation following periods of market volatility. If we were involved in securities litigation, we could incur substantial costs and our resources and the attention of management could be diverted from our business.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and under Delaware law could make an acquisition of us more difficult, limit attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management and limit the market price of our common stock.
Provisions in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and bylaws may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control or changes in our management. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws include provisions that:
authorize our board of directors to issue, without further action by the stockholders, up to 15,000,000 shares of undesignated preferred stock;
require that, any action to be taken by our stockholders be effected at a duly called annual or special meeting and not by written consent;
specify that special meetings of our stockholders can be called only upon the request of a majority of our board of directors;

28


establish an advance notice procedure for stockholder proposals to be brought before an annual meeting, including proposed nominations of persons for election to our board of directors;
establish that our board of directors is divided into three classes, with each class serving three-year staggered terms; and
prohibit cumulative voting in the election of directors.
 These provisions may frustrate or prevent any attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management by making it more difficult for stockholders to replace members of our board of directors, which is responsible for appointing the members of our management, and may discourage, delay or prevent a transaction involving a change of control of our company that is in the best interest of our minority stockholders. Even in the absence of a takeover attempt, the existence of these provisions may adversely affect the prevailing market price of our common stock if stockholders view them as discouraging future takeover attempts. In addition, we have opted out of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) Section 203, relating to business combinations with interested stockholders, but our amended and restated certificate of incorporation provides that engaging in any of a broad range of business combinations with any “interested” stockholder (any stockholder with 15% or more of our capital stock) for a period of three years following the date on which the stockholder became an “interested” stockholder is prohibited, subject to certain exceptions.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation designates the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum for certain types of actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation provides that, unless we consent in writing to an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers and employees to us or our stockholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the DGCL, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or our amended and restated bylaws or (iv) any action asserting a claim that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine, in each case subject to the Court of Chancery having personal jurisdiction over the indispensable parties named as defendants therein. Any person purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in any shares of our capital stock shall be deemed to have notice of and to have consented to this provision of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation. This choice of forum provision may limit our stockholders’ ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and employees even though an action, if successful, might benefit our stockholders. Stockholders who do bring a claim in the Court of Chancery could face additional litigation costs in pursuing any such claim, particularly if they do not reside in or near Delaware. The Court of Chancery may also reach different judgments or results than would other courts, including courts where a stockholder considering an action may be located or would otherwise choose to bring the action, and such judgments or results may be more favorable to us than to our stockholders. Alternatively, if a court were to find this provision of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation inapplicable to, or unenforceable in respect of, one or more of the specified types of actions or proceedings, we may incur additional costs which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We may not continue to declare cash dividends in the future.
In August 2017, we announced that our board of directors authorized a regular dividend program under which we intend to pay quarterly dividends on our common stock, subject to quarterly declarations by our Board of Directors. In addition, in July 2016 and February 2018, we paid special cash dividends of $2.90 per share and $3.17 per share, respectively, in connection with refinancings of our credit facilities. Any future declarations of dividends, as well as the amount and timing of such dividends, are subject to capital availability and the discretion of our Board of Directors, which must evaluate, among other things, whether cash dividends are in the best interest of our stockholders and are in compliance with all applicable laws and any agreements containing provisions that limit our ability to declare and pay cash dividends.
Our ability to pay dividends in the future will depend upon, among other factors, our cash balances and potential future capital requirements, debt service requirements, earnings, financial condition, the general economic and regulatory climate and other factors beyond our control that our Board of Directors may deem relevant. Our dividend payments may change from time to time, and we may not continue to declare dividends in the future. A reduction in or elimination of our dividend payments could have a negative effect on our stock price.

29


Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

None.

30


Item 2. Properties
Due to lower square footage requirements, our restaurants can be located in a variety of locations. They tend to be located primarily in shopping centers, as in-line and end-cap locations. Our restaurants tend to occupy between 1,300 and 2,900 square feet (average 1,700 square feet) of leased retail space. As of December 30, 2017, we and our franchisees operated 1,133 restaurants in 42 states and 9 countries.
The chart below shows the locations of our restaurants as of December 30, 2017:
State
 
Franchise restaurants
 
Company-owned restaurants
 
Total restaurants
Alabama
 
4

 

 
4

Alaska
 
1

 

 
1

Arizona
 
30

 

 
30

Arkansas
 
8

 

 
8

California
 
241

 

 
241

Colorado
 
23

 

 
23

Connecticut
 
3

 

 
3

Florida
 
49

 

 
49

Georgia
 
29

 

 
29

Hawaii
 
2

 

 
2

Idaho
 
3

 

 
3

Illinois
 
61

 

 
61

Indiana
 
8

 

 
8

Iowa
 
2

 

 
2

Kansas
 
4

 

 
4

Kentucky
 
4

 

 
4

Louisiana
 
21

 

 
21

Maryland
 
17

 

 
17

Massachusetts
 
4

 

 
4

Michigan
 
6

 

 
6

Minnesota
 
2

 

 
2

Mississippi
 
10

 

 
10

Missouri
 
16

 

 
16

Nebraska
 
2

 

 
2

Nevada
 
9

 
5

 
14

New Jersey
 
10

 

 
10

New Mexico
 
8

 

 
8

New York
 
9

 

 
9

North Carolina
 
9

 

 
9

Ohio
 
20

 

 
20

Oklahoma
 
13

 

 
13

Oregon
 
3

 

 
3

Pennsylvania
 
6

 

 
6

South Carolina
 
8

 

 
8

South Dakota
 
1

 

 
1

Tennessee
 
15

 

 
15

Texas
 
299

 
18

 
317

Utah
 
4

 

 
4

Virginia
 
17

 

 
17

Washington
 
12

 

 
12

West Virginia
 
1

 

 
1

Wisconsin
 
10

 

 
10

Domestic Total
 
1,004

 
23

 
1,027

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

31


International
 
 
 
 
 
 
Colombia
 
2

 

 
2

Indonesia
 
21

 

 
21

Malaysia
 
2

 

 
2

Mexico
 
60

 

 
60

Philippines
 
11

 

 
11

Saudi Arabia
 
1

 

 
1

Singapore
 
5

 

 
5

United Arab Emirates
 
4

 

 
4

International Total
 
106

 

 
106

Worldwide Total
 
1,110

 
23

 
1,133


We are obligated under non-cancelable leases for our company-owned restaurants and our corporate office. Lease terms for company-owned restaurants are generally between five to ten years of original term with an additional five to ten years of tenant option period, often contain rent escalation provisions, and generally require us to pay a proportionate share of real estate taxes, insurance and common area and other operating costs in addition to base or fixed rent.

32


Item 3. Legal Proceedings
From time to time we may be involved in claims and legal actions that arise in the ordinary course of business. To our knowledge, there are no material pending legal proceedings to which we are a party or of which any of our property is the subject.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

33


PART II

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

On June 17, 2015, we completed our initial public offering of our common stock at a public offering price of $19.00 per share. Our common stock has traded on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol “WING” since it began trading on June 12, 2015. Before then, there was no public market for our common stock.

The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, the high and low sales prices per share of our common stock:
 
Common Stock Price Range
 
High
 
Low
Fiscal Year 2016
 
 
 
First quarter (December 27, 2015 - March 26, 2016)
$
26.42

 
$
20.73

Second quarter (March 27, 2016 - June 25, 2016)
$
28.67

 
$
22.01

Third quarter (June 26, 2016 - September 24, 2016)
$
33.10

 
$
25.24

Fourth quarter (September 25, 2016 - December 31, 2016)
$
33.42

 
$
26.06

 
 
 
 
Fiscal Year 2017
 
 
 
First quarter (January 1, 2017 - April 1, 2017)
$
30.04

 
$
24.74

Second quarter (April 2, 2017 - July 1, 2017)
$
33.25

 
$
27.29

Third quarter (July 2, 2017 - September 30, 2016)
$
35.91

 
$
29.54

Fourth quarter (October 1, 2017 - December 30, 2017)
$
43.25

 
$
31.53


As of February 23, 2018, there were 4 shareholders of record of our common stock. This number excludes stockholders whose stock is held in nominee or street name by brokers.

Dividends
In August 2017, we announced that our board of directors authorized a regular dividend program under which we intend to pay quarterly dividends on our common stock, subject to quarterly declarations by our board of directors. A dividend of $0.07 was announced in both the third and fourth quarters of 2017, which was paid on September 18, 2017 and December 19, 2017, respectively. On February 22, 2018, our Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.07 per common share payable on March 23, 2018 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 9, 2018.
In addition, in July 2016 and February 2018, we paid special cash dividends of $2.90 per share and $3.17 per share, respectively, in connection with refinancings of our credit facilities.
Any future declarations of dividends, as well as the amount and timing of such dividends, is subject to capital availability and the discretion of our board of directors, which must evaluate, among other things, whether cash dividends are in the best interest of our stockholders and are in compliance with all applicable laws and any agreements containing provisions that limit our ability to declare and pay cash dividends, including the restrictions in our senior secured credit facility. For additional information on the restrictions in our senior secured credit facility limiting our ability to pay dividends, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Liquidity and Capital Resources.”
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
There were no sales of unregistered securities during the fiscal year ended December 30, 2017 that were not previously reported on a Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q or a Current Report on Form 8-K.
 
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
We did not repurchase any of our equity securities during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year ended December 30, 2017.




34



Performance Graph

The following performance graph compares the dollar change in the cumulative shareholder return on our common stock with the cumulative total returns of the NASDAQ Composite Index and the S&P 600 Restaurants Index. This graph assumes a $100 investment in our common stock on June 12, 2015 (the date when our common stock first started trading) and in each of the foregoing indices on June 12, 2015, and assumes the reinvestment of dividends, if any. The indices are included for comparative purposes only. They do not necessarily reflect management’s opinion that such indices are an appropriate measure of the relative performance of our common stock, and historical stock price performance should not be relied upon as an indication of future stock price performance. This graph is furnished and not “filed” with the Securities and Exchange Commission and it is not “soliciting material”, and should not be incorporated by reference in any of our filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, whether made before or after the date hereof and irrespective of any general incorporation language in such filing.
chart-083cfabfbf065394a2ba01.jpg



 

35


Item 6. Selected Historical Consolidated Financial and Other Data
The selected historical consolidated financial and other data presented below, with the exception of our key performance indicators, including restaurant counts, same store sales, AUVs, system-wide sales and Adjusted EBITDA, has been derived from the audited consolidated financial statements of Wingstop.
Wingstop utilizes a 52- or 53-week fiscal year that ends on the last Saturday of the calendar year. The fiscal years ended December 30, 2017, December 26, 2015, December 27, 2014, and December 28, 2013 included 52 weeks, and the fiscal year ended on December 31, 2016 included 53 weeks. The first three quarters of our fiscal year consist of 13 weeks and our fourth quarter consists of 13 weeks for 52-week fiscal years and 14 weeks for 53-week fiscal years.
The consolidated financial data and other financial data presented below should be read in conjunction with the section entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto included elsewhere in this report. Our historical consolidated financial data may not be indicative of our future performance.
 
Year ended
(in thousands)
December 30, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
 
December 26, 2015
 
December 27, 2014
 
December 28, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Consolidated Statements of Income Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   Royalty revenue and franchise fees
$
68,483

 
$
57,071

 
$
46,688

 
$
38,032

 
$
30,202

   Company-owned restaurant sales
37,069

 
34,288

 
31,281

 
29,417

 
28,797

       Total revenue
105,552

 
91,359

 
77,969

 
67,449

 
58,999

Cost and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   Cost of sales    
28,745

 
25,308

 
22,219

 
20,473

 
22,176

   Selling, general and administrative
37,151

 
33,840

 
33,350

 
26,006

 
18,913

   Depreciation and amortization
3,376

 
3,008

 
2,682

 
2,904

 
3,030

       Total costs and expenses
69,272

 
62,156

 
58,251

 
49,383

 
44,119

Operating income
36,280

 
29,203

 
19,718

 
18,066

 
14,880

Interest expense, net
5,131

 
4,396

 
3,477

 
3,684

 
2,863

Other expense (income), net

 
254

 
396

 
84

 
(6
)
Income before income taxes
31,149

 
24,553

 
15,845

 
14,298

 
12,023

Income tax expense
3,845

 
9,119

 
5,739

 
5,312

 
4,493

Net income
$
27,304

 
$
15,434

 
$
10,106

 
$
8,986

 
$
7,530

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net cash provided by operating activities
$
27,049

 
$
23,329

 
$
13,860

 
$
15,119

 
$
11,481

Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities
(6,484
)
 
(2,056
)
 
(1,915
)
 
(363
)
 
(2,144
)
Net cash provided by (used in) financing activities
(20,252
)
 
(28,213
)
 
(10,978
)
 
(8,206
)
 
(10,417
)
Net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents
$
313

 
$
(6,940
)
 
$
967

 
$
6,550

 
$
(1,080
)

36


 
Year ended
(in thousands)
December 30, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
 
December 26, 2015
 
December 27, 2014
 
December 28, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Per Share data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Earnings per share
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Basic
$
0.94

 
$
0.54

 
$
0.37

 
$
0.35

 
$
0.30

Diluted
$
0.93

 
$
0.53

 
$
0.36

 
$
0.34

 
$
0.29

Weighted average shares outstanding
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Basic
29,025

 
28,637

 
27,497

 
25,846

 
25.168

Diluted
29,424

 
28,983

 
27,816

 
26,204

 
25.648

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dividends per share
$
0.14

 
$
2.90

 
$
1.83

 
$

 
$

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Selected Other Data (1):
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Number of system-wide restaurants open at end of period
1,133

 
998

 
845

 
712

 
614

Number of domestic company restaurants open at end of period
23

 
21

 
19

 
19

 
24

Number of domestic franchise restaurants open at end of period
1,004

 
901

 
767

 
652

 
569

Number of international franchise restaurants open at end of period
106

 
76

 
59

 
41

 
21

System-wide sales(2)
$
1,087,434

 
$
972,270

 
$
821,248

 
$
678.771

 
$
549.904

 Domestic restaurant AUV(3)
$
1,100

 
$
1,113

 
$
1,126

 
$
1,073

 
$
974

Company-owned domestic AUV(3)
$
1,712

 
$
1,729

 
$
1,646

 
$
1,504

 
$
1,206

Number of restaurants opened (during period)
147

 
159

 
142

 
102

 
74

Number of restaurants closed (during period)
12

 
6

 
9

 
4

 
6

Company-owned restaurants refranchised (during period)
(2
)
 

 

 
5

 

EBITDA (4)   
$
39,656

 
$
31,957

 
$
22,004

 
$
20,886

 
$
17,916

Adjusted EBITDA (4)
$
41,507

 
$
35,576

 
$
28,879

 
$
24,378

 
$
19,495

Same Store Sales Data(5):
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
System-wide domestic same store sales base (end of period)
904

 
779

 
667

 
589

 
527

System-wide domestic same store sales growth
2.6
%
 
3.2
%
 
7.9
%
 
12.5
%
 
9.9
%
 
As of
(in thousands)
December 30, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
 
December 26, 2015
 
December 27, 2014
 
December 28, 2013
Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash and cash equivalents
$
4,063

 
$
3,750

 
$
10,690

 
$
9,723

 
$
3,173

Working capital
(2,971
)
 
(5,616
)
 
7,050

 
276

 
(3,308
)
Total assets
119,836

 
111,800

 
120,650

 
118,827

 
113,451

Total debt
133,750

 
151,250

 
95,500

 
93,721

 
102,500

Total shareholders’ deficit
(48,252
)
 
(74,628
)
 
(9,673
)
 
(8,994
)
 
(20,262
)
 
(1)
See the definitions of key performance indicators under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Key Performance Indicators.”
(2)
The percentage of system-wide sales attributable to company-owned restaurants was 3.4%, 3.5%, 3.8%, 4.3%, and 5.2% for the fiscal years ended December 30, 2017, December 31, 2016, December 26, 2015, December 27, 2014, and December 28, 2013, respectively. The remainder was generated by franchised restaurants, as reported by our franchisees.
(3)
Domestic AUV and company-owned domestic AUV are calculated using the 52-week trailing period.
(4)
EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are supplemental measures of our performance that are not required by, or presented in accordance with, U.S. GAAP. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA are not measurements of our financial performance under U.S. GAAP and should not be considered as an alternative to net income or any other performance measure derived in accordance with U.S. GAAP, or as an alternative to cash flows from operating activities as a measure of our liquidity.
We define “EBITDA” as net income before interest expense, net, income tax expense, and depreciation and amortization. We define “Adjusted EBITDA” as EBITDA further adjusted for management fees and expense reimbursement, a management agreement termination fee, transaction costs, gains and losses on the disposal of assets, and stock-based compensation expense. We caution investors that amounts presented in accordance with our definitions of EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to similar measures disclosed by our competitors, because not all companies and analysts calculate EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA in the same manner. We present EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA

37


because we consider them to be important supplemental measures of our performance and believe they are frequently used by securities analysts, investors and other interested parties in the evaluation of companies in our industry. Management believes that investors’ understanding of our performance is enhanced by including these non-GAAP financial measures as a reasonable basis for comparing our ongoing results of operations. Many investors are interested in understanding the performance of our business by comparing our results from ongoing operations period over period and would ordinarily add back non-cash expenses such as depreciation and amortization, as well as items that are not part of normal day-to-day operations of our business.
Management uses EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA:
as a measurement of operating performance because they assist us in comparing the operating performance of our restaurants on a consistent basis, as they remove the impact of items not directly resulting from our core operations;
for planning purposes, including the preparation of our internal annual operating budget and financial projections;
to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of our operational strategies;
to evaluate our capacity to fund capital expenditures and expand our business; and
to calculate incentive compensation payments for our employees, including assessing performance under our annual incentive compensation plan and determining the vesting of performance shares.
By providing these non-GAAP financial measures, together with a reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP measure, we believe we are enhancing investors’ understanding of our business and our results of operations, as well as assisting investors in evaluating how well we are executing our strategic initiatives. Items excluded from these non-GAAP measures are significant components in understanding and assessing financial performance. In addition, the instruments governing our indebtedness use EBITDA (with additional adjustments) to measure our compliance with covenants such as fixed charge coverage, lease adjusted leverage and debt incurrence. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA have limitations as analytical tools, and should not be considered in isolation, or as an alternative to or a substitute for, net income or other financial statement data presented in our consolidated financial statements as indicators of financial performance. Some of the limitations are:
such measures do not reflect our cash expenditures or future requirements for capital expenditures or contractual commitments;
such measures do not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs;
such measures do not reflect the interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments on our debt;
such measures do not reflect our tax expense or the cash requirements to pay our taxes;
although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and such measures do not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements; and
other companies in our industry may calculate such measures differently than we do, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures.
Due to these limitations, EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA should not be considered as measures of discretionary cash available to us to invest in the growth of our business. We compensate for these limitations by relying primarily on our U.S. GAAP results and using these non-GAAP measures only supplementally. As noted in the table below, Adjusted EBITDA includes adjustments for transaction costs, gains and losses on disposal of assets and stock-based compensation, among other items. It is reasonable to expect that these items will occur in future periods. However, we believe these adjustments are appropriate because the amounts recognized can vary significantly from period to period, do not directly relate to the ongoing operations of our restaurants and complicate comparisons of our internal operating results and operating results of other restaurant companies over time. In addition, Adjusted EBITDA includes adjustments for other items that we do not expect to regularly record, such as transaction costs, management fees and expense reimbursement. Each of the normal recurring adjustments and other adjustments described in this paragraph and in the reconciliation table below help management with a measure of our core operating performance over time by removing items that are not related to day-to-day operations.


38


The following table reconciles EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA to the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial performance measure, which is net income:    
 
Year ended
(in thousands)
December 30, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
 
December 26, 2015
 
December 27, 2014
 
December 28, 2013
Net income
$
27,304

 
$
15,434

 
$
10,106

 
$
8,986

 
$
7,530

Interest expense, net
5,131

 
4,396

 
3,477

 
3,684

 
2,863

Income tax expense
3,845

 
9,119

 
5,739

 
5,312

 
4,493

Depreciation and amortization
3,376

 
3,008

 
2,682

 
2,904

 
3,030

EBITDA
$
39,656

 
$
31,957

 
$
22,004

 
$
20,886

 
$
17,916

Adjustments:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Management fees (a)

 

 
237

 
449

 
436

Management agreement termination fee (b)

 

 
3,297

 

 

Transaction costs (c)

 
2,388

 
2,186

 
2,169

 
395

Gains and losses on disposal of assets (d)

 

 

 
(86
)
 

Stock-based compensation expense (e)
1,851

 
1,231

 
1,155

 
960

 
748

Adjusted EBITDA
$
41,507

 
$
35,576

 
$
28,879

 
$
24,378

 
$
19,495

 
(a)
Includes management fees and other out-of-pocket expenses paid to Roark Capital Management, LLC.
(b)
Represents a one-time fee of $3.3 million that was paid in consideration for the termination of our management agreement with Roark Capital Management during the second quarter of 2015 in connection with our initial public offering. There are no further obligations related to management fees paid to Roark Capital Management.
(c)
Represents costs and expenses related to refinancings of our credit agreement and our public offerings; all transaction costs are included in SG&A with the exception of $215,000 during the year ended December 31, 2016 and $172,000 during the year ended December 26, 2015 that is included in Other expense, net.
(d)
Represents non-cash gains and losses resulting from disposal of company-owned restaurants and associated goodwill write-off.
(e)
Includes non-cash, stock-based compensation.
(5)
We define the domestic same store base to include those domestic restaurants open for at least 52 full weeks. Change in domestic same store sales reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the domestic same store base.


39


Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with “Item 6 - Selected Consolidated Financial Data” and with the audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included in “Item 8 - Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.” The statements in this discussion regarding industry outlook, our expectations regarding our future performance, liquidity and capital resources and other non-historical statements in this discussion are forward-looking statements. See Part I “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” for a discussion of the uncertainties, risks, and assumptions associated with those statements. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, including, but not limited to, the risks and uncertainties described in “Item 1A - Risk Factors.” Our actual results may differ materially from those contained in or implied by any forward-looking statements.
We operate on a 52 or 53 week fiscal year ending on the last Saturday of each calendar year. Our fiscal quarters are comprised of 13 weeks, with the exception of the fourth quarter of a 53 week year, which contains 14 weeks. Fiscal year 2017 contains 52 weeks, and fiscal year 2016 contains 53 weeks.
Overview
Wingstop is a high-growth franchisor and operator of restaurants that offers cooked-to-order, hand-sauced and tossed chicken wings.
We believe we pioneered the concept of wings as a “center-of-the-plate” item for all of our meal occasions. While other concepts include wings as add-on menu items or focus on wings in a bar or sports-centric setting, we are focused on wings, fries and sides, which generate approximately 92% of our system-wide sales.
We offer 11 bold, distinctive and craveable flavors on our bone-in and boneless chicken wings paired with hand-cut, seasoned fries and sides made fresh daily. Our menu is highly-customizable for different dining occasions, and we believe it delivers a compelling value proposition for groups, families, and individuals. We have broad and growing consumer appeal anchored by a sought after core demographic of 18-34 year old Millennials, which we believe is a loyal consumer group that dines at fast casual restaurants more frequently.
Wingstop is the largest fast casual chicken wings-focused restaurant chain in the world and has demonstrated strong, consistent growth. As of December 30, 2017, we had a total 1,133 restaurants across 42 states and nine countries in our system. Our restaurant base is 98% franchised, with 1,110 franchised locations (including 106 international locations) and 23 company-owned restaurants.
 We plan to grow our business by opening new franchised restaurants and increasing our same store sales, while leveraging our franchise model to create shareholder value.
Domestic restaurant count has increased 73% since the end of 2013. We believe our domestic unit potential is approximately 2,500 units. Further, we believe there is opportunity to expand our brand internationally to become a top 10 global brand.
We had 135 net unit openings in 2017 and ended the year with a domestic development pipeline of 450 total commitments to open new franchised restaurants with approximately 80% of our current domestic commitments from existing franchisees.
Domestic same store sales have increased for 14 consecutive years beginning in 2004, which includes 5-year cumulative domestic same stores sales growth of 36.1% since fiscal 2013. We anticipate further increases in domestic same store sales through improvements in brand awareness from national advertising, flavor innovation, increases in digital expansion, and the rollout of delivery.
We believe our asset-light, highly-franchised business model generates strong operating margins and requires low capital expenditures, creating shareholder value through strong and consistent free cash flow and capital-efficient growth.

Highlights for Fiscal Year 2017:
System-wide restaurant count increased 13.5% over the prior year to a total of 1,133 worldwide locations, driven by 135 net unit openings;
Domestic same store sales increased 2.6% over the prior year;
Company-owned restaurant same store sales increased 1.6% over the prior year;
System-wide sales increased 11.8% over the prior year to $1.1 billion;
Total revenue increased 15.5% over the prior year to $105.6 million;
Net income increased 76.9% over the prior year to $27.3 million; and
Adjusted EBITDA increased 16.7% over the prior year to $41.5 million;


40


In August 2017, we initiated a regular quarterly dividend program, and paid a quarterly dividend of $0.07 per share of common stock in each of September and December 2017.
Key Performance Indicators
Key measures that we use in evaluating our restaurants and assessing our business include the following:
Number of restaurants. Management reviews the number of new restaurants, the number of closed restaurants, and the number of acquisitions and divestitures of restaurants to assess net new restaurant growth, system-wide sales, royalty and franchise fee revenue and company-owned restaurant sales.
 
Year Ended
 
December 30,
2017
 
December 31,
2016
Domestic Franchised Activity:
 
 
 
Beginning of period
901

 
767

Openings
115

 
137

Closures
(10
)
 
(3
)
Acquired by Company
(2
)
 

Restaurants end of period
1,004

 
901

 
 
 
 
Domestic Company-Owned Activity:
 
 
 
Beginning of period
21

 
19

Openings

 
2

Closures

 

Acquired from franchisees
2

 

Restaurants end of period
23

 
21

 
 
 
 
Total Domestic Restaurants
1,027

 
922

 
 
 
 
International Franchised Activity:
 
 
 
Beginning of period
76

 
59

Openings
32

 
20

Closures
(2
)
 
(3
)
Restaurants end of period
106

 
76

 
 
 
 
Total System-wide Restaurants
1,133

 
998

System-wide sales. System-wide sales represents net sales for all of our company-owned and franchised restaurants. This measure allows management to better assess changes in our royalty revenue, our overall store performance, the health of our brand and the strength of our market position relative to competitors. Our system-wide sales growth is driven by new restaurant openings as well as increases in same store sales.
Average unit volume (AUV). AUV consists of the average annual sales of all restaurants that have been open for a trailing 52-week period or longer. AUV allows management to assess our company-owned and franchised restaurant economics. Our AUV growth is primarily driven by increases in same store sales and is also influenced by opening new restaurants.
Same store sales. Same store sales reflects the change in year-over-year sales for the same store base. We define the same store base to include those restaurants open for at least 52 full weeks. This measure highlights the performance of existing restaurants, while excluding the impact of new restaurant openings and closures. We review same store sales for company-owned restaurants as well as system-wide restaurants. Same store sales growth is driven by increases in transactions and average transaction size. Transaction size increases are driven by price increases or favorable mix shift from either an increase in items purchased or shifts into higher priced items.

41


Adjusted EBITDA. We define Adjusted EBITDA as net income before interest expense, net, income tax expense, and depreciation and amortization, with further adjustments for management fees and expense reimbursement, transaction costs, gains and losses on the disposal of assets, and stock-based compensation expense. Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to other similarly titled captions of other companies due to differences in methods of calculation. For a reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA to net income and a further discussion of how we utilize this non-GAAP financial measure, see “Selected Historical Consolidated Financial and Other Data.”
The following table sets forth our key performance indicators for the fiscal years ended December 30, 2017December 31, 2016 and December 26, 2015 (in thousands, except unit data):
 
Year ended
 
December 30, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
 
December 26, 2015
Number of system-wide restaurants at period end
1,133

 
998

 
845

System-wide sales
$
1,087,434

 
$
972,270

 
$
821,248

Domestic restaurant AUV
$
1,100

 
$
1,113

 
$
1,126

System-wide domestic same store sales growth
2.6
%
 
3.2
%
 
7.9
%
Company-owned domestic same store sales growth
1.6
%
 
5.4
%
 
9.4
%
Total revenue
$
105,552

 
$
91,359

 
$
77,969

Net income
$
27,304

 
$
15,434

 
$
10,106

Adjusted EBITDA
$
41,507

 
$
35,576

 
$
28,879

Key Financial Definitions
Revenue. Our revenue is comprised of the collection of development fees, franchise fees, royalties, other fees associated with franchise and development rights, and sales of wings and other food and beverage products by our company-owned restaurants. The following is a brief description of our components of revenue:
Royalty revenue and franchise fees includes revenue we earn from our franchise business segment in the form of royalties, fees, and vendor contributions and rebates. Royalties consist primarily of fees earned from franchisees equal to a percentage of gross franchise restaurant sales of all restaurants developed under the applicable franchise agreement. The majority of our franchise agreements require our franchise owners to pay us a royalty of 5.0% of their gross sales net of discounts. Development agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2014 require our franchisees to pay us a royalty of 6.0% of their gross sales net of discounts. Franchise fees consist of initial development and franchise fees related to new restaurants, master license fees for international territories, fees to renew or extend franchise agreements and transfer fees. Initial franchise fees are recognized upon the opening of a restaurant and are impacted by the number of new franchise store openings in a specified period. Development and territory fees related to an individual restaurant are recognized upon the opening of each individual restaurant. Royalty revenue and franchise fees also include revenue from vendor contributions and rebates that are attributable to system-wide volume purchases and are received for general marketing and other purposes.
Sales from company-owned restaurants are generated through sales of food and beverage at company-owned restaurants.
Cost of sales. Cost of sales consists of direct food, beverage, paper goods, packaging, labor costs and other restaurant operating costs such as rent, restaurant maintenance costs and property insurance, at our company-owned restaurants. Additionally, a portion of vendor rebates attributable to system-wide volumes purchases are netted against cost of sales. The components of cost of sales are partially variable in nature and fluctuate with changes in sales volume, product mix, menu pricing and commodity costs.
Selling, general and administrative. SG&A costs consist of wages, benefits, franchise development expenses, other compensation, travel, marketing, accounting fees, legal fees, sponsor management fees and other expenses related to the infrastructure required to support our franchise and company-owned stores.
Depreciation and amortization. Depreciation and amortization includes the depreciation of fixed assets, capitalized leasehold improvements and amortization of intangible assets.
Interest expense. Interest expense includes expenses related to borrowings under our senior secured credit facility and amortization of deferred debt issuance costs.
Income tax expense. Income tax expense includes current and deferred federal tax expenses as well as state and local income taxes.

42


Results of Operations
The following table presents the Consolidated Statement of Operations for the past three fiscal years expressed as a percentage of revenue.
 
Fiscal Year
 
December 30,
2017
 
December 31,
2016
 
December 26,
2015
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
Royalty revenue and franchise fees
64.9
%
 
62.5
%
 
59.9
%
Company-owned restaurant sales
35.1
%
 
37.5
%
 
40.1
%
Total revenue
100.0
%
 
100.0
%
 
100.0
%
Costs and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of sales (1)
77.5
%
 
73.8
%
 
71.0
%
Selling, general and administrative
35.2
%
 
37.0
%
 
42.8
%
Depreciation and amortization
3.2
%
 
3.3
%
 
3.4
%
Total costs and expenses
65.6
%
 
68.0
%
 
74.7
%
Operating income
34.4
%
 
32.0
%
 
25.3
%
Interest expense, net
4.9
%
 
4.8
%
 
4.5
%
Other (income) expense, net
%
 
0.3
%
 
0.5
%
Income before income taxes
29.5
%
 
26.9
%
 
20.3
%
Income tax expense
3.6
%
 
10.0
%
 
7.4
%
Net income
25.9
%
 
16.9
%
 
13.0
%
 
(1) As a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales. Exclusive of depreciation and amortization, shown separately. The percentages reflected have been subject to rounding adjustments. Accordingly, figures expressed as percentages when aggregated may not be the arithmetic aggregation of the percentages that precede them.



43



Year ended December 30, 2017 compared to year ended December 31, 2016
The following table sets forth information comparing the components of net income in fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2016 (in thousands):
 
Year ended
 
Increase / (Decrease)
 
December 30,
2017
 
December 31,
2016
 
$
 
%
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Royalty revenue and franchise fees
$
68,483

 
$
57,071

 
$
11,412

 
20.0
 %
Company-owned restaurant sales
37,069

 
34,288

 
2,781

 
8.1
 %
Total revenue
105,552

 
91,359

 
14,193

 
15.5
 %
Costs and expenses:
 
 
 
 


 


Cost of sales (1)
28,745

 
25,308

 
3,437

 
13.6
 %
Selling, general and administrative
37,151

 
33,840

 
3,311

 
9.8
 %
Depreciation and amortization
3,376

 
3,008

 
368

 
12.2
 %
Total costs and expenses
69,272

 
62,156

 
7,116

 
11.4
 %
Operating income
36,280

 
29,203

 
7,077

 
24.2
 %
Interest expense, net
5,131

 
4,396

 
735

 
16.7
 %
Other expense, net

 
254

 
(254
)
 
(100.0
)%
Income before income tax expense
31,149

 
24,553

 
6,596

 
26.9
 %
Income tax expense
3,845

 
9,119

 
(5,274
)
 
(57.8
)%
Net income
$
27,304

 
$
15,434

 
$
11,870

 
76.9
 %
 
(1) Exclusive of depreciation and amortization, shown separately.
Total revenue. Total revenue was $105.6 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $14.2 million, or 15.5%, compared to $91.4 million in the prior fiscal year.
Royalty revenue and franchise fees. Royalty revenue and franchise fees were $68.5 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $11.4 million, or 20.0%, compared to $57.1 million in the prior fiscal year. Royalty revenue increased by $6.4 million primarily due to 147 franchise restaurant openings and domestic same store sales growth of 2.6%, partially offset by revenue of approximately $0.9 million related to the 53rd week in 2016. Other revenue increased $4.8 million primarily due to an increase in vendor rebates, including a one-time payment, based on system-wide volumes purchased in the prior year, received in conjunction with a new vendor agreement that was executed during the first quarter of 2017. The funding from this agreement was primarily used to support our national advertising campaign.
Company-owned restaurant sales. Company-owned restaurant sales were $37.1 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $2.8 million, or 8.1%, compared to $34.3 million in the prior fiscal year. The increase is the result of the acquisition of two company-owned restaurants from a franchisee in the third quarter of 2017 and company-owned domestic same store sales growth of 1.6%, driven by an increase in transactions, partially offset by revenue of approximately $0.6 million related to the 53rd week in 2016.
Cost of sales. Cost of sales was $28.7 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $3.4 million, or 13.6%, compared to $25.3 million in the prior fiscal year. Cost of sales as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales was 77.5% in fiscal year 2017 compared to 73.8% in the prior fiscal year.


44


The table below presents the major components of Cost of sales (in thousands):
 
Year ended
 
As a % of company-owned restaurant sales
 
Year ended
 
As a % of company-owned restaurant sales
 
December 30,
2017
 
 
December 31,
2016
 
Cost of sales:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Food, beverage and packaging costs
14,810

 
40.0
 %
 
12,827

 
37.4
 %
Labor costs
8,878

 
23.9
 %
 
7,680

 
22.4
 %
Other restaurant operating expenses
6,004

 
16.2
 %
 
5,760

 
16.8
 %
Vendor rebates
(947
)
 
(2.6
)%
 
(959
)
 
(2.8
)%
Total cost of sales
$
28,745

 
77.5
 %
 
$
25,308

 
73.8
 %
Food, beverage and packaging costs as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales were 40.0% in fiscal year 2017 compared to 37.4% in the prior fiscal year. The increase is primarily due to an 18.0% increase in commodities rates for bone-in chicken wings compared to the prior fiscal year.
Labor costs as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales were 23.9% in fiscal year 2017 compared to 22.4% in the prior fiscal year. The increase as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales is primarily due to investments in roster sizes and staffing we made in the third and fourth quarters of fiscal year 2016 to support the continued sales growth in our company-owned restaurants.
Other restaurant operating expenses as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales were 16.2% in fiscal year 2017 compared to 16.8% in the prior fiscal year. The decrease as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales is primarily due to a decrease in repairs and maintenance expenses, as well as a decrease in pre-opening expenses associated with the opening of two company-owned restaurants in the prior fiscal year.
 
Selling, general and administrative. SG&A expense was $37.2 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $3.3 million, or 9.8%, compared to $33.8 million in the prior fiscal year. The increase in SG&A expense is primarily due to an increase in voluntary contributions of $3.2 million made to the advertising fund, including a one-time payment made in conjunction with a new vendor agreement executed during the first quarter of 2017, which provided support for the Company’s national advertising campaign. SG&A expense also increased due to planned headcount additions and an increase in stock based compensation and travel expenses. These increases are partially offset by a decrease in nonrecurring expenses of $2.2 million related to the refinancing of our credit agreement and expenses related to the special dividend, which occurred in the prior fiscal year, as well as a decrease in incremental costs of approximately $0.6 million related to the 53rd week in 2016.
Depreciation and amortization. Depreciation and amortization was $3.4 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $0.4 million, or 12.2%, compared to $3.0 million in the prior fiscal year. The increase in depreciation is primarily due to the capital expenditures during the period, including the acquisition of two company-owned locations.
Interest expense, net. Interest expense was $5.1 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $0.7 million, or 16.7%, from $4.4 million in the prior fiscal year. The increase is primarily due to an increase in the principal amount of indebtedness we had outstanding and the applicable interest rate related to the refinancing of our credit agreement in June 2016.
Income tax expense. Income tax expense was $3.8 million in fiscal year 2017, yielding an effective tax rate of 12.3%, compared to an effective tax rate of 37.1% in the prior fiscal year. The income tax provision for fiscal year 2017 included a benefit of approximately $5.5 million, primarily associated with the revaluation of deferred tax liabilities as a result of the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 22, 2017, which reduced the federal corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% effective January 1, 2018. Additionally, tax benefits of $2.5 million were realized in fiscal year 2017 resulting from the recognition of excess tax benefits from share-based compensation in income tax expense rather than paid-in capital as a result of the adoption of a new accounting standard.

45


Segment results. The following table sets forth our revenue and operating profit for each of our segments for the period presented (in thousands):
 
Year Ended
 
Increase / (Decrease)
 
December 30,
2017
 
December 31,
2016
 
$
 
%
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Franchise segment
$
68,483

 
$
57,071

 
$
11,412

 
20.0
 %
Company segment
37,069

 
34,288

 
2,781

 
8.1
 %
Total segment revenue
$
105,552

 
$
91,359

 
$
14,193

 
15.5
 %
 
 
 
 
 

 

Segment Profit:
 
 
 
 

 

Franchise segment
$
31,637

 
$
25,850

 
$
5,787

 
22.4
 %
Company segment
4,643

 
5,526

 
(883
)
 
(16.0
)%
Total segment profit
$
36,280

 
$
31,376

 
$
4,904

 
15.6
 %

Franchise segment. Franchise segment revenue was $68.5 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $11.4 million, or 20.0%, from $57.1 million in the prior fiscal year. Royalty revenue increased by $6.4 million primarily due to 147 franchise restaurant openings and domestic same store sales growth of 2.6% during the current fiscal year, partially offset by revenue of approximately $0.9 million related to the 53rd week in 2016. Other revenue increased $4.8 million primarily due to an increase in vendor rebates, including a one-time payment, based on system-wide volumes purchased in the prior year, received under a new vendor agreement executed during the first quarter of 2017.

Franchise segment profit was $31.6 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $5.8 million, or 22.4%, from $25.9 million in the prior fiscal year primarily due to the growth in revenue.

Company Segment. Company-owned restaurant sales were $37.1 million in fiscal year 2017, an increase of $2.8 million, or 8.1%, compared to $34.3 million in the prior fiscal year. The increase is primarily due to the opening of two company-owned restaurants during the third quarter of the current fiscal year and company-owned domestic same store sales growth of 1.6%, driven by an increase in transactions, partially offset by revenue of approximately $0.6 million related to the 53rd week in 2016.

Company segment profit was $4.6 million in fiscal year 2017, a decrease of $0.9 million, or 16.0%, compared to $5.5 million in the prior fiscal year. The decrease is primarily due to an 18.0% increase in commodities rates for bone-in chicken wings and investments in roster sizes and staffing to support the continued sales growth in our company-owned restaurants. The decrease is partially offset by the company-owned comparable same store sales increase of 1.6%, as well as a decrease in repairs and maintenance and pre-opening expenses.



46


Year ended December 31, 2016 compared to year ended December 26, 2015
The following table sets forth information comparing the components of net income in fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2015 (in thousands):
 
Year ended
 
Increase / (Decrease)
 
December 31,
2016
 
December 26,
2015
 
$
 
%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Royalty revenue and franchise fees
$
57,071

 
$
46,688

 
$
10,383

 
22.2
 %
Company-owned restaurant sales
34,288

 
31,281

 
3,007

 
9.6
 %
Total revenue
91,359

 
77,969

 
13,390

 
17.2
 %
Costs and expenses:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of sales (1)
25,308

 
22,219

 
3,089

 
13.9
 %
Selling, general and administrative
33,840

 
33,350

 
490

 
1.5
 %
Depreciation and amortization
3,008

 
2,682

 
326

 
12.2
 %
Total costs and expenses
62,156

 
58,251

 
3,905

 
6.7
 %
Operating income
29,203

 
19,718

 
9,485

 
48.1
 %
Interest expense, net
4,396

 
3,477

 
919

 
26.4
 %
Other expense, net
254

 
396

 
(142
)
 
(35.9
)%
Income before income tax expense
24,553

 
15,845

 
8,708

 
55.0
 %
Income tax expense
9,119

 
5,739

 
3,380

 
58.9
 %
Net income
$
15,434

 
$
10,106

 
$
5,328

 
52.7
 %
 
(1) Exclusive of depreciation and amortization, shown separately.
Total revenue. Total revenue was $91.4 million in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $13.4 million, or 17.2%, compared to $78.0 million in the prior fiscal year.
Royalty revenue and franchise fees. Royalty revenue and franchise fees were $57.1 million in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $10.4 million, or 22.2%, compared to $46.7 million in the prior fiscal year. Royalty revenue increased by $8.3 million primarily due to 157 franchise restaurant openings, domestic same store sales growth of 3.2%, and approximately $0.9 million of additional revenue from the 53rd week. Franchise fees increased by $0.7 million driven by 15 additional franchise restaurant openings in 2016 compared to restaurant openings in 2015. Other revenue increased $1.4 million primarily due to contributions received for our franchisee convention. The convention is held every 18 months, and there was no convention in 2015.
Company-owned restaurant sales. Company-owned restaurant sales were $34.3 million in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $3.0 million, or 9.6%, compared to $31.3 million in the prior fiscal year. The increase is the result of company-owned domestic same store sales growth of 5.4%, resulting primarily from an increase in transaction counts, the addition of two company-owned restaurants during 2016, and approximately $0.6 million of additional revenue from the 53rd week.
Cost of sales. Cost of sales was $25.3 million in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $3.1 million, or 13.9%, compared to $22.2 million in the prior fiscal year. Cost of sales as a percentage of company-owned restaurant sales was 73.8% in fiscal year 2016 compared to 71.0% in the prior fiscal year.

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The table below presents the major components of cost of sales (in thousands):